WEB EXCLUSIVE! Students become sexual assault first responders

by Katie Langesen

Simpson College hosted a training session for first responders to sexual assault on Nov. 22, featuring various speakers from the Warren County Attorney’s office and Indianola Police department.

Simpson students gathered with Ruth Engelbart, Victim/Witness Coordinator for the Warren County Attorney’s Office; Jane A. Orlanes, Domestic Assault Prosecutor for the Warren County Attorney’s Office; and Brad Metcalf, a police officer in Indianola, as they discussed what a student should do if they were to be the first person to speak to someone who was sexually assaulted. During the session, many points were outlined as to how to respond to this situation.

“[We] explain to them the process from the first person acknowledging the assault and the steps to take,” said Metcalf.

Sophomore Kayla Schmidt organized this event, hoping to increase awareness on campus.

“This does happen on our campus,” said Schmidt. “Our campus is not immune. I was hoping to educate students about the procedure – what would happen if they came upon this situation, what they should do and shouldn’t do.”

Information was handed out to students who came to the session, including a crime victim compensation application, numbers to call for help and a memo from the Warren County Attorney’s office explaining the procedure to take when confronted with a person who has been sexually assaulted. The first step in any situation is to call the Indianola Police department, but that is why first responder teams like this are important, it’s impossible to know who will first come upon a victim of a sexual assault.

“Most of the time we’re not going to be the first person [there],” said Metcalf. “It could be a friend or family member and we want to let these types of people know the steps to ensure evidence safety and scene safety.”

“A lot of people want to put a blind eye to sexual assault,” said Orlanes, about her goals for the session. “The more people who talk about this issue, the more we can do to stop the violence.”

Senior Joe Roth and freshman Shani Blair were present at the session.

“I feel it’s important as a member of a community to be able to provide support for people in need,” said Roth.

Blair said she is excited to be a part of the first responder’s team.

“It was very informative, and I was excited to help, but I sincerely hope there will not be a need [to be called],” Blair said.

Before the end of the session, there was a brief discussion as to what direction this first responder’s team should take in the future. This talk included how to get the names of the students who had attended the meeting out to the general student population, so that other students know if they need help there are people they can talk to besides adults here on campus.

Engelbart left satisfied that they’d accomplished what they had set out to do.

“I’m happy that people want to be on a first responder set-up here,” said Engelbart. “[It shows] that people do care and people want to help.”