LACASA’s Sexual Assault Response Center launches a “Call Us First” campaign in September which encourages victims to reach out for help following a sexual assault.

“It can be intimidating and even paralyzing for a victim to contact the police following an assault,” said Bobette Schrandt, president and CEO of LACASA Center. “We want victims to know they may call us first, and we can arrange every aspect of their care –from immediate medical treatment to legal advocacy and counseling.”

National statistics estimate that more than 88 percent of rapes go unreported. LACASA treated 141 sexual assault victims last year. If the national figures hold true, that means hundreds of victims from Livingston County remain silent each year.

“Most victims don’t report their assault and never receive the support and services they need,” said Mike Murphy, Livingston County undersheriff and chair of LACASA’s Board of Directors.

“We want to lift the shame and self-blame off the shoulders of victims, and let them know there is a secure place for them to come for immediate, confidential care,” Murphy said.

Specially-trained staff members at LACASA serve as advocates and gatekeepers for victims, said Schrandt. “We help victims navigate through the decision-making process that follows an assault.”

Sexual assault victims have 96 hours following an assault to undergo a forensic examination. “We collect all evidence and secure it in a rape kit provided by the state,” Schrandt said.

“Victims may, or may not, choose to have an exam or to follow through with prosecution. No matter what a victim decides, we are able to store the rape kit in a secure location. Victims have a lengthy window of time to move forward with prosecution of the case,” said Schrandt.

“We have a collaborative relationship with the hospitals when it comes to sexual assault crimes,” Schrandt said. “They want victims to come to us, because we have a specialized team in place which is trained to respond to a victim’s medical and emotional needs.”

Victims often fear that they will be seen by someone they know at a local hospital, and that is one reason victims hesitate to seek treatment, said Schrandt.

“Unlike a public emergency room setting, LACASA offers privacy and confidentiality,” Schrandt added. “We never involve health insurance carriers, which hospitals are required to do. Our services are provided at no charge and remain completely confidential.”

LACASA’s Sexual Assault Response Center is equipped with advanced forensic evidence-gathering technology. Forensic exams are conducted by Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) who undergo extensive training. The center is directed by a SANE Nurse Manager, and several SANE nurses are on-call around the clock, 365 days a year.

“We know that across the country and right here in our community, the average sexual assault victim is between the age of 15 years old and 24 years old,” Schrandt said. “We want to get the message out to our young people that there is a safe place for victims to come in Livingston County where their identity will be protected.”

According to Undersheriff Murphy, victims are reluctant to reveal or report the crime for a variety of reasons.

“Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows,” said Murphy. “This fact alone makes it a confusing situation for the victim. They will wonder what they could have done to prevent it, and may blame themselves for taking that ride home, going to that party, or inviting that person into their home.”

“Victims almost always blame themselves, whether they know their assailant or not,” Murphy said. “We want to change that in Livingston County. Victims need to know they are not alone and they are not to blame.”

LACASA’s Community Response Team, which involves representatives from the prosecutor’s office, law enforcement, hospitals and social service agencies, is working with the county’s first responders to build awareness about the “Call Us First” campaign.

“We have been providing services for sexual assault victims at no charge since 1987,” said Schrandt. “But, these services have not received financial support from a state or federal agency until recently.”

Last year, LACASA applied to the Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention and Treatment Board (MDVPTB) for funding to expand its sexual assault center and solidify its nursing staff. The MDVPTB awarded LACASA a three-year contract grant of $83,439 in October, 2014.

“The MDVPTB recognized the need to infuse LACASA with funding to fully staff the program, conduct specialized SANE training for nurses, and to develop a county-wide awareness campaign,” Schrandt said. “We appreciate the board’s belief in us, and their commitment to victims from our community.”

The “Call Us First” campaign launches on Sept. 1, 2015. Oversized campaign posters are available for organizations, businesses or medical centers that want to post them in waiting areas or in restrooms. The campaign will be publicized on billboards, in the media, at the high schools, and on local college campuses.

The campaign poster is part of a series which LACASA developed to raise community awareness about its services for victims of child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault.

"We are working to overcome the perception that LACASA is only a shelter," said Schrandt. "It is important that the public know the many services available to victims here--from youth trauma assessments for teachers and counselors to parenting education programs that help prevent child abuse."

"Call Us First" campaign posters, as well as the community awareness posters, are available at LACASA. If your organization would like to pick up posters, or would like them dropped off, please contact LACASA Community Education Director, Nicole Matthews-Creech, at 517-548-1350 or email her at

Campaign Encourages Victims to Reach Out for Help