According data on the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services (WV FRIS) website, an American is sexually assaulted every 1.85 minutes. Since Jan. 1, 2017, more than 227,000 sexual assaults have occurred.
WV FRIS was established in 1982 and is comprised of nine rape crisis centers across West Virginia. The foundation works to strengthen services and develop intervention and prevention programs to address sexual violence, stalking and dating violence.
In the face of the overwhelming statistics regarding sexual assault, Dr. Terence Ahern is working with WV FRIS to develop training modules for allied professionals who serve sexual assault victims. Ahern, an associate professor of instructional design and technology in the Department of Learning Sciences and Human Development, has been collaborating with the organization since 2011.
“Sexual assault is an ongoing, continuous problem and WV FRIS want to address this,” Ahern said.
Ahern’s work with WV FRIS began when was approached by a student whose relative worked for WV FRIS. The student talked to Ahern about moving the organization’s sexual assault assistance training materials, originally a bulky set of handbooks, online. Six years later, Ahern continues to work with the organization to build new training modules, upgrade and maintain existing modules, and manage the server and host site.
“I’m basically the educational technologist and the data information architect,” Ahern said.
The experience has provided Ahern with the opportunity to work on all aspects of the site; he even designed a new logo for the organization. As WV FRIS’ resources and offerings continue to expand, Ahern has been able to use this experience as an example for his students.
“It’s a primary, real-world example of the things that we do in our program,” he said.
The sexual assault assistance training module is designed for allied professionals who deal with sexual assault, but the resources is free for any individual interested in completing the training.
“You have a whole variety of folks who are engaged in those kinds of interventions, from police officers to district attorneys to the medical community,” Ahern said.
Thought the training modules are primarily used by people who live and work in West Virginia, Ahern said that professionals in surrounding states, even police officers from New York and New Jersey, have completed the courses.
In addition to the sexual assault assistance training modules, Ahern has created a module to train Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). By completing this training and paying a small fee, registered nurses are equipped to complete forensic medical examinations for sexual assault victims, as well as to assess and treat any serious injuries following these incidents.
To date, 513 people have completed training modules through WV FRIS, and of those 513, 186 people have completed the SANE training. Moving forward, Ahern hopes that more individuals will use WV FRIS’ resources.
“I think everybody should know about it, because it’s a really cool service,” Ahern said. “It’s one of the few resources of its kind, and it's expanding.”
For Ahern, one of the most rewarding parts of his work with WV FRIS has been using his expertise to serve the state while working alongside his students.
“It’s a land-grant issue related to what we do both in terms of finding an opportunity to serve the state in a real way, and tapping into my expertise and my students’ expertise,” Ahern said.