SART TOOLKIT: Resources for Sexual Assault Response Teams
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What Is a SART?

To ensure justice and create a more compassionate and streamlined response, service providers must intervene in a way that speaks to the context of each victim's circumstance and respects the unique roles of the different professionals involved in responding to sexual assault. Over the years, communities have developed a team approach with just those goals in mind. Multidisciplinary teams, often called SARTs (sexual assault response teams), partner together to provide interagency, coordinated responses that make victims' needs a priority, hold offenders accountable, and promote public safety.

Core members typically include advocates, law enforcement officers, forensic medical examiners—including sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs), forensic laboratory personnel, and prosecutors.

Additional team members can include dispatchers, emergency medical technicians, correctional staff, culturally specific organization representatives, sex offender management professionals, policymakers, federal grant administrators, faith-based providers, and civil and victims' rights attorneys.

Read this section to find out more about the SART model, how SARTs help victims and responders, and why you should consider developing a SART in your community.

Are All SARTs the Same?

Although SARTs are frequently defined as sexual assault response teams, they also are referred to as sexual assault resource teams or suspected abuse response teams. According to the Report on the National Needs Assessment of Sexual Assault Response Teams, authored by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, other communities call their coordinated approaches multidisciplinary response teams (MDTs), sexual assault interagency councils (SAICs), child/adult abuse response teams (CARTs) and sexual assault multidisciplinary action response teams (SMARTs).

The SART model has become the standard for responding to victims of sexual assault. Models range from informal, cooperative partnerships to more formalized coordinated, multidisciplinary responses on local, regional, state, tribal, or territory levels. SARTs function in various ways and often provide a wide range of services.

In general, SARTs—

Teams often define themselves by the level of cooperation and collaboration among members. For example, sexual assault resource teams generally include medical, legal, and advocacy agencies or organizations that cooperate and communicate with each other while serving victims. Most resource teams have cooperative interagency understandings, host regularly scheduled team meetings, and share resources and expertise. However, the team members and their agencies maintain their own guidelines and protocols rather than establishing a collaborative team identity. This model allows multiple agencies to monitor the overall effectiveness of interagency responses, review the consequences of those responses for criminal justice proceedings, and address emerging issues proactively.

SARTs that define themselves as response teams activate and dispatch team members (law enforcement officers, forensic medical examiners, advocates, and sometimes prosecutors) in a coordinated fashion to provide integrated and immediate responses following sexual assaults. The primary advantage of a response team model is that it minimizes the number of contacts that victims must initially make to receive quality medical, legal, and advocacy services. Because response team members are activated together, the specific roles and responsibilities of participating agencies are interwoven into team guidelines and protocols that coordinate interdisciplinary responsibilities based on expertise.

How Do SARTs Help Victims?

SARTs can diminish the short- and long-term impacts of trauma by mobilizing interdisciplinary expertise to assess and address victims' needs from the acute stage to recovery. The cooperative partnerships formed by SARTs can validate victims' concerns, inform victims of available options for addressing their concerns, and improve service accessibility for diverse populations. The team model also can improve cross-discipline communication and enable victims to provide feedback on their cases.

More specifically, SARTs help victims by, among other activities1

How Do SARTs Help Responders?

Multidisciplinary teams provide a range of resources and shared expertise to help make services for victims a priority and to encourage quality evidence collection. Many teams provide interagency cross-training, develop guidelines and protocols for consistent responses, and consult with a network of government- and community-based service providers to heighten their expertise.

The Right Tool

National SART Listserv Service providers throughout the Nation share innovative practices, protocols, and multidisciplinary solutions to emerging issues.

For service providers, these benefits translate into2

The Success of SARTs

Cases that involve SARTs—

  • Are reported more quickly.
  • Have more evidence (in particular, DNA evidence).
  • Are the strongest predictor that charges will be filed in sexual assault cases with adult female victims.
  • Yield more evidence on average than cases in which no SANE or SART intervention occurs.
  • Are more likely to lead to arrest than cases in which there is no intervention.
  • Have personnel who keep victims better informed and engaged throughout the criminal justice process.

Source: Nugent-Borakove et al., Testing the Efficacy of SANE/SART Programs: Do They Make a Difference in Sexual Assault Arrest & Prosecution Outcomes?, 2006.

Why Should Communities Consider SARTs?

The SART model helps communities stretch their resource dollars and provides an avenue for community members to become involved in the intervention in and prevention of sexual assault.

Prevention initiatives address both the causes and consequences of sexual violence. SARTs can work to stop sexual assault from happening (primary prevention), minimize the harm that occurs from sexual violence (secondary prevention), and treat victims in the aftermath of sexual violence (tertiary prevention).3 In practice, SARTs can help prevent sexual violence by4

Community Capacity Building

Sexual Violence and the Spectrum of Prevention identifies six levels of community capacity building that help strategically address prevention. Consider adapting these levels into action steps, as laid out below, and integrating them into your current response:

  • Educate victims about personal safety.
  • Promote public safety through public awareness campaigns.
  • Educate multidisciplinary service providers who can educate their constituency/clients.
  • Build collaborative partnerships to provide a collective voice to end sexual violence.
  • Develop interagency guidelines that underscore and shape public safety.
  • Create local policies that support national efforts to end sexual violence.

Note: The steps shown here are adapted from information found in Rachel Davis, Lisa Fujie Parks, and Larry Cohen, 2006, Sexual Violence and the Spectrum of Prevention: Towards a Community Solution, Enola, PA: National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

In addition, SARTs help communities—


1 State of Arizona, Office of the Attorney General, 2001, Recommended Guidelines for a Coordinated Community Response to Sexual Assault, Phoenix, AZ: Office of the Attorney General.

2 National Center for Women and Policing, 2001, Successfully Investigating Acquaintance Sexual Assault: A National Training Manual for Law Enforcement, Beverly Hills, CA: National Center for Women and Policing.

3 World Health Organization, 2004, Handbook for the Documentation of Interpersonal Violence Prevention Programmes, Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

4 World Health Organization, 2004, Preventing Violence: A Guide to Implementing the Recommendations of the World Report on Violence and Health, Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.

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