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Change in protocol for reporting sexual assaults

Posted: 7:42 PM, Sep 27, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-27 19:42:25-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - As the world watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify Thursday on Capitol Hill, experts in our area said her testimony will help more victims come forward.

Inside Palm Beach County Victim Services, staff members listened closely to the dramatic testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, who accuses Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

“It really takes a tremendous amount of courage to come forward,” said Nicole Bishop, director of Palm Beach County Victim Services.

Bishop said only 18% of victims nationally make that difficult decision. In Palm Beach County, there is now an updated protocol that could help increase that percentage.

“It was actually brought to our attention by local law enforcement who noticed there was a gap in what our policy provided in the Florida statutes,” Bishop said.

Evidence from a forensic exam, taken by a victim who did not want to report the crime to police, was stored for one year. Now, that evidence from a rape kit will be stored for up to four years.

“Giving then a few extra years time to have some therapy and work on being able to come forward,” said Sharon Daugherty, the sexual assault outreach coordinator at PBC Victim Services.

Daugherty is a survivor of sexual assault at the hands of her father. She filed charges and he was arrested, but the statute of limitations ran out.

“He walked on that technicality even though everyone knew he was guilty,” she said.

Daugherty fights for victims every day, and she calls the updated protocol in Palm Beach County progress.

“There’s no expiration date on when that person decides for themselves when they’re ready when they’re healed and what they want to do,” Daugherty said.

Officials said they do not believe there is an increase in sexual assault, but they are seeing more victims come forward.

All the services at Palm Beach County Victim Services are free and there’s someone to help 24/7. You can call their toll-free helpline at 561-833-7273.