Sexual Assault Task Force Recommends Specialized Court

Local News

SPRINGFIELD — After 10 months of research, the task force presented it’s findings and made suggestions for the city council.

The Sexual Assault Task Force appointed by Springfield City Council met 10 times since being formed in January

Thursday, the nine-member task force presented their report at a city council luncheon. The task force found that sexual assaults have gone up 26% in the last five years.

Their initial purpose was to review current practices – and then research and recommend new ones.

Those recommendations were based on two goals:

    – Improve community awareness about sexual assault prevention, sexual assault reporting and victim rights

    – Increase victim reporting and decrease victim fallout of the criminal justice system by improving the victim experience and improving outcomes for victims.

Based on those goals, they made five major recommendations for Springfield City Council.

  • The first is to form a qualified team to analyze data on sexual assaults and conduct surveys on the subject.
  • Based on that data, they want to form an education and awareness campaign

– They suggested funding to place victims advocates within the Springfield police department to help victims know what their options and rights are

– They a want council itself to make sexual assault initiatives a legislative priority

– Perhaps the biggest recommendation was the creation of a specialized sexual violence court.

Greene County did have a specialized court for domestic violence for about a year. Judge Calvin Holden was the head of that program until it was shut down in March.

Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson claimed it wasn’t properly established, and cited nepotism. Patterson claimed that Holden appointed friends and family to operate it. Holden says the fate of that court’s future could be clearer in a couple of months.

As far as a sexual assault court proposal, Judge Holden discussed what something like that could accomplish with those types of cases.

“They are actually talking about a specialized court to have counselors to help the victims, more victim interaction, more support for the victims, and move the cases quicker.  It takes 1-2 years to get one of these cases investigated, charged and tried. I think they would want to move them quicker,” Holden explains.

These are the nine members of the Sexual Assault Task Force, and the organizations they are affiliated with:

  • Lisa Farmer, Harmony House
  • Sharon Alexander, Legal Services of Southern Missouri
  • Sara Bargo, Me Too
  • Brandi Bartel, The Victim Center
  • Phyllis Ferguson, Mayor Pro Tem
  • Jan Fisk, City Council member
  • Dee Ogilvy, National Organization of Women, Southwest Missouri Chapter
  • Linda Saturno, Child Advocacy Center
  • Janice Thompson Gehrke, community representative

None of the members KOLR10 reached out to responded for comment.

The task force got their research from places like the Springfield Police Department, Prosecutor Dan Patterson, and local hospitals. You can read their full report here.

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