By Matt Youngfrau
LIBERTY January 22, 2002 Over the last few years, the number of sexual abuse cases in Sullivan County has risen dramatically. This fact has alarmed many county agencies, especially those who deal with young victims of sexual abuse.
With that in mind, the Sullivan County Rape Intervention Services and Education (RISE) group, in conjunction with the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Abuse (NYSCASA), sponsored a conference on Friday, January 18 to form a Sexual Abuse Task Force in Sullivan County.
RISE was hoping for a turnout of 15 to 20 people. However, they received nearly 60 requests from people who wanted to be at the conference. So the conference was moved from RISE's office in Monticello to Cornell Cooperative Extension in Liberty.
The conference was run by RISE Program Coordinator Cindy Zingher and NYSCASA representatives Chrys Ballerano and Donna Hanley. Both NYSCASA representatives have extensive backgrounds in the field and have helped similar groups get started in other areas.
Due to some scheduling conflicts, attendance was less than expected. Approximately 30 people from such county agencies as Catskill Regional Medical Center, Sullivan County Probation, the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department, the Family Violence Response Team, Daytop, and Teen Link to the Community attended the conference. All were anxious to participate, and many useful suggestions came out of the discussions.
"This is a diverse team. This is a great list of agencies involved here," Ballerano pointed out. "Each team is a little different. There is no template. There is a lot of energy and creative momentum in this room."
The group broke into subcommittees to look at such areas as education, prevention, treatment, and legal services. All worked together to formulate where to go next.
"No sex abuse should go untreated," Ballerano remarked. "No victim should not have access to services. This is a grassroots effort."
The group pointed out that there was no representation from the clergy, the Recovery Center, youth advocates, and others, saying they would try to recruit them in the future. All agreed that Zingher would be the point person for the team until a coordinator can be found. They will also explore ways to fund the task forces efforts.
All the subcommittees agreed to work together and meet on their own over the next few months. The entire group will get together again at Cornell on Friday, March 15 at 10 a.m.