JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – On Friday morning, first responders, victim advocates and members of the community gathered at the Brinkley Center in Johnson City for the inaugural Upper East Tennessee Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Summit.
Presenters at the event included members from various departments and organizations who work directly with those who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Each speaker shared their knowledge and personal experience in these situations.
Ruth Taylor Read, event organizer and Program Manager for East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) Office of Professional Development, said the summit was created to inform both the community and front-line responders on the prevention, response, advocacy and treatment for survivors, as well as allow them to form a closer community.
“It is exciting to make them aware of each other and to be a part of this conversation,” Read said. “And to be interested in, compassionate, and empathetic enough to recognize the importance of being trauma-informed and informed in these responses.”
Read adds that the summit aims to help those in attendance be able to identify the various resources available to victims.
“Today is just an amazing day, I think, of identifying those who do work on the front lines and identifying resources in our region that we didn’t have not even five or ten years ago,” said Read.
Kaylin Render, Assistant District Attorney for Sullivan County, was among those presenting. Render works on prosecuting cases of domestic violence within the county. She said that being able to share her experience, as well as updates on domestic violence laws, has a positive impact.
“When you can get the word out on those new law changes to the broader domestic violence community and not just the county, but in East Tennessee in general, then I think that can’t be a bad thing,” Render said.
Other presenters said the summit is a way to help inform the public about domestic violence and sexual assault safety in the region, as well as to help prevent a future situation.
“We’re all coming together for the betterment of our community and to be able to help survivors, and hopefully with enough time, maybe quell some of this and stop it before it starts,” said Sergeant Major Cindy Humphrey, who serves as the Department of Defense’s sexual assault victim advocate for the region.
“It lets you know that it is truly a combined effort and that it takes us all to get a victim through that journey to healing,” said Tina Johnson, who serves as the Director of Victim Services for Frontier Health’s Safe House.
Read said she intends for the summit to become a yearly event. She said she’ll begin planning for next year following Friday’s event.