Although you may have never heard of Safe Harbor, you should take great comfort in knowing that this organization exists. Founded in 2002 by the Ventura County District Attorney’s office, Safe Harbor operates two multi-disciplinary interview centers, located in quiet residential neighborhoods in Ventura and Simi Valley, which provide an array of victim-sensitive services to children or adults who have been sexually assaulted or physically abused.
Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Safe Harbor employees are always at-the-ready to quickly and sensitively respond to the medical, emotional, psychological and legal needs of any victim of sexual assault or physical abuse. Working collaboratively at the centers are doctors, nurses, counselors, victim advocates, law enforcement officers and representatives from the District Attorney’s office. Victims are brought to the centers by law enforcement or Family Services and are greeted by well-trained staffers who make the process of investigating and documenting the abuse as non-intimidating and non-traumatizing as possible.
Upon arrival, victims are escorted into the family room where they are met by a nurse and, if the victim requests it, a counselor from the Coalition For Family Harmony, one of Safe Harbors many partner agencies. From there, victims are escorted to the interview room where they can relay the details of their abuse to a specially-trained forensic interviewer in comfort and privacy. The room, equipped with closed-circuit cameras, allows others; law enforcement, prosecution, Children and Family Services and medical professionals, to see and hear the victim’s testimony without being present in the room. The Coalition counselor is not only available to stay with the victim throughout the entire Safe Harbor process, he/she also offers victims and their families with free follow-up counseling sessions to help them cope with the aftermath.
Safe Harbor’s mission is to promote dignity and respect while minimizing trauma, ensuring victims’ safety, providing crisis intervention and support services in a safe environment and enhancing the prosecution process. Gina D’Aquilla, Safe Harbor’s Medical Coordinator, says that all Safe Harbor employees look at what they do each day to be much more than a job, they consider it their calling to aid victims at a time when they need help the most.