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Grant cut hits sex crimes unit

The support network for Jackson County rape victims faces a massive budget cut after losing a federal grant used to fund advocates and specially trained nurses.

The Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) stands to lose 51 percent of its working budget when its Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant dries up this year.

"We started from nothing, working to raise awareness of a tragic issue no one wants to address," said SART Development Director Judith Rosen. "We've come too far to let this all go."

Operating since May 2005, the team provides on-call sexual assault nurse examiners certified in giving exams to all victims who report a rape to police or at the hospital. There are 16 of these nurses working in Jackson County.

In addition, SART officials work with police to help victims through the grueling legal process that can lead to a successful prosecution, according to SART Executive Director Susan Moen.

"This nonprofit program is a commitment to victim-centered protocols that put everyone on the same page," Moen said.

Rape victims still will benefit from the speciality nurses and advocates from Community Works for the foreseeable future. The primary hit will come to the program's public education endeavors.

"It costs a lot to go out in the community and talk to people about this subject," Moen said. "Losing the grant will force us stop expanding the SART program. We will have to replace money to use in providing basic services."

Last year, SART responded to 72 sexual assault victims, with an increase in successful prosecutions, said Medford police Detective Diane Sandler, who specializes in sex abuse cases.

"In the past, some victims would begin the legal process and find it too difficult and walk away," Sandler said. "Now we respond as a team with a gentle, balanced approach that is more supportive."

The federal Byrne grant was cut by 67 percent nationally. In the past five years, Oregon has received $21.7 million to help pay for drug courts and treatment programs throughout the state, according to an Associated Press story.

In addition, a large chunk of the Byrne grants is used by sheriff's departments in marijuana eradication.

The team recently used Byrne money to purchase digital cameras for evidence collection, Moen said.

"Bruises fade, photographs don't," Moen said.

SART also faces additional losses with the elimination of Victims of Crime Act grants, which injected the team's budget with close to $40,000 last year, Moen said.

"We want to be able to keep moving forward," Rosen added. "But more of our time will now be spent working to raise money."

The program is available victims at any time and any area hospital or police station. The services are free of charge.

For more information, e-mail SART at jcsart@charter.net.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

Judith Rosen, left, and Susan Moen of the Sexualt Assault Response Team work out of a home office. 51% of their budget comes from a grant which is being reduced. Jim Craven 2/14/2008 - Jim Craven