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Ventura County

Assault Trauma Center to Open

A renovated house in Simi Valley will be used to create a comfortable environment for questioning victims of rape or child abuse.

March 31, 2003|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

The Ventura County district attorney's office will open a center this summer designed to lessen the trauma experienced by child abuse and sexual assault victims.

A three-bedroom house in Simi Valley will be renovated and equipped with a medical examination room and an interview room, where victims can be questioned by police and treated in a secure, comfortable environment, said Dianna Mendoza, program coordinator for Safe Harbor East.

Safe Harbor is a multi-agency program aimed at creating a less stressful post-crime period for victims, who often have to relive the trauma when recounting the crimes to investigators, officials said.

A center in Ventura opened six months ago and treats about 15 victims a month. There were no estimates of how many victims might be seen at the Simi Valley office, Mendoza said.

Victims will be referred to the center by the Simi Valley Police Department, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department and Interface Children Family Services of Ventura County.

The center's location will not be disclosed to protect the privacy and safety of victims, Mendoza said.

Renovations to the building will be overseen by the Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of 2003, a group of 17 who volunteered to become more involved in community affairs, said Ed Abele, a class member and a deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County.

The leadership class helped bring together the various public and private agencies that made the center a reality, said Abele, a 30-year resident of Simi Valley.

He said the class decided to get involved in the program last fall.

As a prosecutor, Abele worked with a similar program in the San Fernando Valley and was impressed with the results.

In the past, victims of child abuse and sexual assault would travel to a local hospital for tests and then go to a police station for questioning.

With the center, the processing can be done in one place and a team of professionals will be on call to respond any hour of the day, officials said.

In addition to specially trained nurses and law enforcement officers, a social worker and a victim's advocate from the district attorney's office will be available, Mendoza said.

The center will serve the entire east county, including Moorpark, Thousand Oaks and Newbury Park.

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