CBS 4: Alachua Sheriff's Office and Gainesville Police Department begin new training to help victims of sexual assault


Gainesville, Fla. — Sexual violence is a terrible crime that haunts people in our community every day.

CBS 4 reports on a new year-long program in Alachua county with a goal to help victims overcome their pain and receive justice.

The sheriff's office is working with GPD and other agencies to receive training on how to help victims of sexual assault.

The Excellence in Sexual Assault Response Project is part of the the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence aimed at helping law enforcement understand victims of sexual assault.

"It teaches the law enforcement community how to be more victim-centered and trauma informed, it has a lot of information that our staff will be getting over the next year about the neurobiology of trauma and helps explain some of the counter-intuitive behavior of victims and survivors," says Laura Knudson with the Alachua County Sheriff's Office Trauma Intervention and Special Services.

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office is one of four agencies chosen for this pilot project in Florida.

In part, since Gainesville is a large college town, experts say it's an area where many sexual assaults may go unreported.

"Most survivors don't report right away, they often report after the fact and so this will train law enforcement how to speak with them, how to get the evidence they need to investigate the case and prosecute it," Grace Frances with the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence.

To see if the program is working, the council will keep track of all cases of sexual violence reported to both the sheriff's office and Gainesville Police Department.

"Are more victims coming forward? We expect that they will, how many arrest are there, how many prosecutions are there," says Frances.

On Thursday, The Gainesville Police Department will be receiving similar training on how to help victims of sexual assault.

According to the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, about one in six women in Florida have been raped at some point in their lives.