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Taking Back Choice: “You Have Options” Program for Sexual Assault Survivors to Come to Brighton, CO

You Have Options Comes from Oregon to Brighton, Colorado

By Michelle Wolff, CCASA Blogger

There is a lot of buzz about the You Have Options (YHO) program, developed by Detective Carrie Hull with the Ashland Police Department in Oregon. YHO gives victims of sexual assault three options to report. A truly anonymous path; a middle of the road path that allows victims to meet with a detective, ask questions, get informed without ever revealing any identifying information; and the full report with all the information. I won’t cover it too much as you can find more details at the website.

Let’s just say that YHO has been highly successful and has now been offered as a package for interested agencies to implement in their own areas. A lot of blood sweat and tears has gone into creating a system that can quickly take agencies toward delivering the best quality response to victims and the highest level of offender focused investigation with the latest evidence based information available. The key word in that sentence is quality and there is another word I would add to the program’s design: commitment.

The You Have Options program requires a high level of action based commitment to staying educated and active in the realm of being victim centered and offender focused. It requires learning the latest effective methods of interviewing such as the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview techniques. It requires understanding that trauma impacts victims in ways that can skew the investigation into victim blaming of not accounted for and understood.

The process is comprehensive. The MOU to be connected to the main system of You Have Options – a system that allows users to benefit from exceptional training, a nearly turnkey software system and secure database at an extremely minimal financial investment – is  thorough and the agreements contained in it are utterly non-negotiable. Period.

To say it’s been an intense process leading up to implementation in Brighton would be a massive understatement. The You Have Options program has been repeatedly discussed by members of 17th Judicial District Sexual Assault Response Team since way back in 2012 and again in early 2013 when Ending Violence Against Women did a Spotlight article on Ashland PD. After seeing this Spotlight article, Brighton PD Victim Services Coordinator Kim Messina latched on to the concepts and wanted to bring it to Brighton.

Since that time policies have had to undergo revision, media coverage has been done, City Council had to be brought on board, Attorneys had to be consulted, a team had to be formed, and Chief Blackhurst and Command staff had to agree. There has been a lot of talking for a long time!

It hasn’t been easy.

But since when were the most worthwhile undertakings easy?

The next time someone is assaulted in the City of Brighton, this victim centered and offender focused response to their pain is what they will receive.

They will have first responders who understand what they’re going through and believe.

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