READING, Pa. - It's in the darkest times when heroes respond.
"Every month, we see more people for domestic violence than we do for sexual assault prior to the pandemic, and I would say that the numbers are more even now," said Meghan Sager, Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) coordinator at Reading-based SafeBerks.
It couldn't be a more critical time for SafeBerks to assemble the team, a beacon of hope for victims in the form of about a dozen heroes, each with a job to do. Sager is the coordinator.
When a victim opens up to a sexual assault nurse at Reading Hospital, Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center, or the Berks Community Health Foundation, the nurse makes the call to SafeBerks.
"When we arrive there, we typically know the sexual assault nurse," said Macy Lluberes, director of the medical partnership advocacy program at SafeBerks and a SART member.
After that, if the victim wishes, SART's law enforcement members roll into action.
"We do have a specific detective assigned to the team," said Berks County District Attorney John Adams.
On the team with that county detective is Reading police Capt. Cheryl Pentheny. If the police make an arrest, in step the SART members, who will prosecute: Adams and two of his assistant district attorneys.
"We don't want them to be victimized again," said Adams.
"I think it's helpful that we pretty much all know each other," said Lluberes.
A team, from the hospital to the courtroom, all focused on one person - to heal and bring justice.
"You have a team of people working with you and a team of people that are here for you and a team of people that care about your next step," said Lluberes.