Forensic Science Center receives National Visionary Voice Award for sexual assault outreach initiatives


VoiceAward_04-09-14The Marshall University Forensic Science Center is a recipient of the 2014 Visionary Voice Award, a national award honoring individuals and organizations throughout the country doing outstanding work to end sexual violence in their communities.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center sponsors the Visionary Voice Award in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month each April.  Nominees are selected by state, tribal or territory anti-sexual violence coalitions.

The award was presented April 9 to Dr. Terry W. Fenger, director of the Forensic Science Center, and Jason Chute, DNA Technical Leader, at the 14th Annual Statewide West Virginia Sexual Assault and Stalking Symposium at the Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, W.Va.

The West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services (FRIS) nominated Marshall’s Forensic Science Center for the award in recognition of its outreach projects and contributions in support of victim assistance and addressing sexual violence in West Virginia and its local communities.

Fenger said receiving the national award is an honor. “The Forensic Science Center’s long partnership with the FRIS coalition has been valuable to the Huntington community as well as the state in helping victims of sexual assault in West Virginia as well as other states across the country,” he said. “The training initiatives for nurses and collaborative efforts with law enforcement ultimately support serving justice for the victims of these violent crimes.”

The West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services is West Virginia’s state sexual assault coalition. Established in 1982 and comprised of the state’s nine rape crisis centers, FRIS works with all allied professionals to strengthen services and develop intervention and prevention programs to address sexual violence, stalking and dating violence.

The Forensic Science Center began collaborating with the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services in 2003 and supported development of Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) training initiatives.  The center hosted the region’s first Sexual Assault Response Training for health care workers and law enforcement.

Since May 2004, MUFSC has provided week-long adult and pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Training to more than 430 registered nurses from West Virginia and 21 states across the country. Specialized training is delivered on how to care for the complex issues of sexual assault victims such as how to recognize, collect and preserve evidence, interview victims and link them to vital community resources for follow-up.

In West Virginia, Marshall’s Forensic Science Center serves as the secure storage area of sexual assault kits for victims until he or she notifies law enforcement and grants approval to initiate a criminal case.

Additionally, the center participates in the Cabell County Sexual Assault Response Team and hosts meetings. Staff members also serve on the SANE Advisory Board coordinated by FRIS.

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Photo: Nancy Hoffman, state coordinator for the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services, center, presents Dr. Terry W. Fenger, left, with a Visionary Voice Award from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center for Marshall University Forensic Science Center’s support to improve services in West Virginia for sexual assault victims. Standing at right is Jason Chute, the center’s DNA Technical Leader.