The Miami Beach Police Department hosted a sexual assault event on Monday, where the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence gave a presentation as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Aifa Alvarez, the event organizer, talked about the inspiration behind the event.
“So, we thought this would be a good opportunity to let the community know what the Miami Beach Police Department is doing about training their officers in a trauma-informed approach, and we could have awareness and safety tips for everybody,” Alvarez said.
During the event, Julie Weil, a victim of sexual assault and founder of the Not Just Me foundation, shared her personal story.
Weil was beaten and raped four times in front of her two children by a man who had “abducted” her outside of her church in 2002.
She talked about the great police work by the Miami-Dade Police Department and how its approach gave her comfort during the situation.
“Every step of the way, [the detective] wasn’t like, ‘oh my God,’ or ‘ugh, that sounds kind of weird,’ ” Weil said. “She was able to tell me what the protocol of Dade-County was, so I wasn’t floating out in the dock.”
She added that the detective working her case would even work outside of Weil’s home, so she felt secure while they looked for the suspect.
Weil said that her case was a success because the Miami-Dade Police Department team was dedicated to getting evidence to find the suspect.
“For some reason, Miami-Dade went so far as to test my shorts, my belt, my shirt, they tested everything. And when they did, it paid off,” she said.
Several detectives and other members of the Miami Beach Police Department attended the event to learn from Weil’s experience. Some took notes and others asked questions regarding the trauma-informed approach.
Miami Beach police Chief Dan Oates, who is retiring in June, and Captain, Philip T. Pulaski, reminded the crowd how seriously sexual assault is taken in their department.
Christa Oralus, the program specialist at Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, shared some preventative measures people can take to avoid or help in case of a sexual assault.
“I think the most important thing is just knowing your environment and making sure you’re in a place where you’re able to get to a first responder… making sure you know your resources too, like who to call and what is the community,” she said.