Conway firefighters were educated in sexual assault crisis response Tuesday, helping ensure their preparedness for all possible emergency scenarios.
Kate Vincent gave firefighters information that may not be readily available, especially when emergencies involve rape and sexual assault.
Vincent is director of the sexual assault program, a division of the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas,
"This is obviously a very uncomfortable subject to talk about," Vincent said. "But it’s important to know the facts and to know how to deal with victims, especially if (firefighters) are the first ones on a scene."
Fire Lt. John Skinner said the information is particularly beneficial to the department since many firefighters have not had this type of training.
"Even those of us who have dealt with this need to be refreshed on what to do and how to act," Skinner said. "It was just a good time for everyone to learn this material."
Vincent, who normally addresses high school students, said this was her first presentation to fire department personnel.
"It’s always important to know that victims do not need to be victimized again," she told firefighters. "Many feel like no one will believe them, and so it is important from the beginning to believe them, to empower them and not to judge them."
According to a 2010 study from the Centers for Disease Control, Arkansas leads the nation with the highest percentage of female high school students who have been the victims of rape. Information from the study also indicated that on a national level, 10.5 percent of girls and 4.5 percent of boys stated that they had been forced to have sexual intercourse.
A crisis response team is needed to provide empathy and understanding as well as privacy, Vincent emphasized.
While it may not be common for the fire department to respond to sexual assault reports, Chief Bart Castleberry said he was intent on his team receiving the proper response training.