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SART provides services for abuse victims

March 28, 2014

For the past 13 years, the St. Croix Valley Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) has been a small building located on North Main Street.

People drive by the building daily without thinking twice about what it is and the significant impact it has had on a number of people, including students at UW-River Falls.

SART is a non-profit organization for women and men ages 13 and older who have experienced things such as sexual assault or domestic abuse. They offer treatment services that help people with both physical and emotional healing in Pierce, St. Croix and Polk counties.

Erin McNiff is a client services coordinator for SART and works with the SART education program that has been a part of the UWRF campus.

“We started an education program where we go into schools, come to campus, work with law enforcement and nursing classes, and community groups,” McNiff said. “The reason we started the education program was because of how much people didn’t know, and how much they blamed themselves and fell into the mists of society. We try to do a lot of prevention and education in general.” a The St. Croix Valley SART is only one of two teams in the country that treats people to the extent that it does, the other being in Kansas City, Mo. They also have the largest service area in WI, and the only ones who have a forensic team, an advocate team and an after-care team in the Midwest. Jennifer Elsesser, an intake counselor, is thankful for the impact SART and its many services have made at UWRF.

“The thing I really appreciate about SART is that when we meet with students who have been through a horrific situation we know that we are sending them to a good place, and know that there are people there to support them and give them the help they need,” Elsesser said. “It feels really good for us to have that relationship. We have wonderful resources and we really appreciate it.”

SART and the agreement is has with University has given students, faculty and staff a chance to meet with people such as McNiff. Alice Reilly-Myklebust, the director of Counseling and Health Services, hopes to bring awareness to SART and the free services they offer.

“I think students know that there are services available, but until they need it or have a friend that needs it they don’t really know exactly what’s there for them,” Reilly-Myklebust said. “What we hope to do is let students know that there are services available and to call somebody and we will help get them connected.”

SART’s goal is to help people through difficult times when it comes to assault and abuse, and give them a place to feel safe.

“No matter what has happened, whether it’s previous or long term, or how they feel about it, it is not their fault,” McNiff said. “We are here to support them, guide them, and provide them with information to make their own decisions and support them along the way, and if they have general questions or want to help someone else to know that we are here.”