At an awards presentation before the Winona County Board at its regular board meeting, Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman and Claire Exley, Winona County Attorney’s Office crime victims services coordinator, handed out the first annual Winona County Sexual Assault Interagency Council (SAIC) Service Awards to three outstanding individuals for their work in combating sexual assault in Winona County: Winona Police Department Investigator Anne Scharmach, WSU Health Services Certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Holly Fratzke, and Goodview Police Department Officer Nicole Norman.
At the awards presentation, Exley, who also serves as the SAIC coordinator, said that the Winona County SAIC team is one of 12 response teams across the state of Minnesota. The team formed in 1998 and has been continually working on improving the community’s response to sexual assault. The team focuses on creating and implementing a protocol response for sexual assault cases, provides and receives training, conducts case reviews, creates community awareness of sexual assault, and enforces organization accountability. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted. Each year, there around 293,000 victims of sexual assault.
Meaningful change in addressing sexual violence in any community comes from working together. As a group, sexual assault response teams play a powerful role in improving our collective response to sexual violence. The Winona County SAIC promotes a victim-centered response to sexual violence through increased collaboration and education across various disciplines. The SAIC consists of numerous community and system organizations working together to respond to sexual assault in Winona County. Its mission is to coordinate an effective interagency and community response to sexual assault, serving all victims and seeking justice.
The Winona County SAIC currently consists of representatives from numerous agencies, Winona Police Department, Winona County Sheriff’s Office, St. Charles Police Department, Lewiston Police Department, Goodview Police Department, Department of Corrections, Winona County Attorney’s Office, Winona County Community Services, Family and Children’s Center, Women’s Resource Center, SEMCAC clinic, Winona Health, Winona State University, St. Mary’s University and Minnesota State College - Southeast.
Exley remarked during her presentation that she is grateful to lead a group of such hardworking, dedicated and passionate individuals. She said that “it is truly remarkable to see our team members come together for this purpose. We are proud of the effective changes our SAIC has been able to accomplish and how those changes have improved our collective response to victims of sexual violence.”
County Attorney Sonneman stated that the SAIC is funded through a SMART grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs for which her office is eligible to apply every year and which the office has done for the past 20 years, successfully. The grant funds the entire operating expenses of the SAIC. In 2019, the grant amount is $13,000 with a $4,334 in-kind match requirement from Winona County.