TW/CW: This story discusses the investigation of sexual assaults and victims of domestic violence.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office has formed a new special unit to investigate cases involving adult victims of sexual assault.
The Adult Sex Crimes Unit, which was officially formed last November, employs three full-time detectives and operates out of A Safe Place Family Justice Center in Oregon City.
Adult sexual assault cases were previously handled by CCSO’s Homicide and Violent Crimes Unit, which also investigates suspicious deaths, homicides, missing persons, kidnappings, serious assaults, robberies, violent gang-related crime and officer-involved shootings.
But statistical analysis showed that nearly half of the unit’s caseload involved sex crimes.
Undersheriff Angela Brandenburg, former director of A Safe Place Family Justice Center, said she saw this as a “huge opportunity” to improve the CCSO’s response to sexual assault. The new unit prioritizes victims of sexual assault with a dedicated team of investigators.
Basing the new unit in the Safe Place Family Justice Center was also a strategic move, says Undersheriff Brandenburg, one she believes will “break down barriers.”
“Our goal is for victims to feel safe when reporting sexual assault, surrounded by the support they need to hold offenders accountable,” she says. “A Safe Place offers victims an environment where they can receive those supportive services, heal from trauma, and move forward in their lives.”
Clackamas Women’s Services Executive Director Melissa Erlbaum commended the CCSO for their work in forming the new unit through the “innovative family justice center model.”
“Cases involving sexual violence can be complex and challenging,” said Clackamas Women’s Services Executive Director Melissa Erlbaum. “Survivors benefit greatly when they are met by a dedicated unit with specialized training.”
Adult Sex Crimes detectives will receive focused training on advanced topics, including victim interviewing, physiology of trauma, and maintaining wellness as they work emotionally challenging caseloads.
Lt. Mike Copenhaver, who supervises the unit and serves as the current Director of A Safe Place, says they are already seeing results from the formation of the new unit, including a stronger partnership between the two agencies and improved efficiencies in handling investigations.
“We’re always looking for ways to do this job better,” said Undersheriff Brandenburg. “We’ve seen great results in consolidating family violence services under one roof. Bringing dedicated sexual assault detectives under that roof strengthens our ability to assist victims and hold offenders accountable.”
Learn more about A Safe Place at www.asafeplacefjc.org.
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