By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
For about the last year, if a woman were sexually assaulted in Garfield County, she would have to travel more than a hour to Stillwater for an examination that could ensure her attacker faced justice.
Wednesday, public and civic officials gathered to mark the opening of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examination room and the YWCA Enid.
YWCA Enid Board President Roxanne Pollard said Wednesday marked an exciting time for the organization.
“We are the only YWCA that has a sexual assault nurse examiner program,” she said, “and the only SANE room in northwest Oklahoma.”
District Attorney Mike Fields shared a startling fact with the standing room only group there for the ribbon cutting: one in five women in the United States will be sexually assaulted.
“In my 18 years as a prosecutor, I’ve spoken to many victims of sexual assault,” he said. “I’ve listened as they’ve described in graphic detail how they were assaulted — the fear and the pain they experienced.
“I’ve listened as they’ve described the shame, embarrassment and humiliation they felt as they stepped forward out of the shadows so their attackers could be exposed to the light and to justice.”
Fields said with each of the stories and each case prosecuted his resolve has only grown stronger.
“I want our officers, investigators and prosecutors to be tireless seekers of justice and the truth. This is critically important,” he said. “While the march toward justice begins with a courageous decision to step forward, our ability to seek and to obtain justice rises or falls in direct proportion to the thoroughness and professionalism of the investigation.”
Fields said sexual assault investigations are “unique and complex,” and must be complete and comprehensive, but they also must be respectful and compassionate.
“I’m so pleased to be here today,” he said. “This is the culmination of so much work by so many people.”
Fields said having a SANE program in Garfield County is proof the community cares about sexual assault victims and the justice they deserve.
“The YWCA’s sponsorship of the SANE program, along with St. Mary’s support, will ensure that our community’s response to sexual assault remains strong,” Fields said. “Having the examinations here where victims have immediate access to advocates and counselors and even the Crisis Center, if necessary, sends them the clear message that they’re important, that their case matters and that we’re going to do everything we can to seek and obtain justice for them.”
The district attorney thanked those involved with bringing the SANE room to the YWCA.
Fields thanked Ann Bryant, who learned of the lack of such a program in Enid from her daughter, Hope Bryant, who works in the Fields’ office, and wrote a grant to receive funds for the room. He also thanked United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma for giving a grant to the program. He also thanked St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, which donated $5,000 and medical supplies for the room.
Fields also thanked Enid Police Department and Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the two SANE nurses attending Wednesday’s ribbon cutting.
“Working together, we’ve made our community’s response to sexual assault stronger,” he said.
YWCA Enid Executive Director Kim Blankenship said she was overwhelmed by the show of support from the Enid community.