National SART Toolkit Video Transcripts
[Linda Rinaldi, New Jersey Deputy Attorney General, Division of Criminal Justice]
Linda Rinaldi: What was happening is that victims were being re-victimized by the system. They would go to a hospital, they would report that they were sexually assaulted. So we found that our victims sometimes weren’t, or a lot of times weren’t willing to follow through with the criminal justice system and they felt like the system that was there to help them was traumatizing them even more than they had already been traumatized.
Host: As you can see, a victim response system was desperately needed. The solution was an initiative called SART. SART stands for sexual assault response or resource team. These teams are working in communities all over the country, raising the bar for victim treatment and victim rights. In this video, we’re going to discuss how a SART approach can benefit your community. You’ll hear from a number of professionals who discovered that there was a better way to help victims and hold offenders accountable.
[Linda Rinaldi, New Jersey Deputy Attorney General, Division of Criminal Justice]
Linda Rinaldi: What was happening is that victims were being re-victimized by the system. They would go to a hospital, they would report that they were sexually assaulted. So we found that our victims sometimes weren't, or a lot of times weren't willing to follow through with the criminal justice system and they felt like the system that was there to help them was traumatizing them even more than they had already been traumatized.
Host: As you can see, a victim response system was desperately needed. The solution was an initiative called SART. SART stands for sexual assault response or resource team. These teams are working in communities all over the country, raising the bar for victim treatment and victim rights. In this video, we're going to discuss how a SART approach can benefit your community. You'll hear from a number of professionals who discovered that there was a better way to help victims and hold offenders accountable.
The definition of a SART is a multidisciplinary, interagency team of specially trained service providers who agree to share resources and work together when responding to victims of sexual assault. These team members usually include victim advocates, law enforcement, forensic examiners, crime lab specialists, and prosecuting attorneys, but they can also include other professionals like dispatchers, emergency medical technicians, and public health officials. The true strength of a SART team is in its diversity.
[Julie Coffey, Advocate, Manager, Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center]
Julie Coffey: Diversity is always an important factor in forming formal or informal sexual assault response teams and we draw on one another's expertise to provide the highest quality services in holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes. But despite the diversity, we all share common values, those common core values, such as integrity, respect, honesty, empathy.
Host: While collaboration is the key to SART effectiveness, team members are sensitive to the issue of victim confidentiality.
Julie Coffey: Patient confidentiality is the highest priority. The Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center releases documentation only to investigative agencies, such as law enforcement, prosecutors, Department of Human Services, in active investigations.
Host: The primary objectives of a SART are to collaborate and execute consistent, high-quality victim-centered responses and increase offender accountability. Exactly how that's done is left up to the teams themselves. That's because every SART team is unique. They have different protocols, different resources, and different victim needs. Each SART is defined by the community it serves. While every SART team operates differently, they all carry out the same basic tasks. They share resources, connect victims with support services, and develop guidelines for the team's effective and consistent response. To be successful, there has to be ongoing communication across the disciplines. Typically, teams meet on a regular basis to share information and expertise.
[Maureen Love, Forensic Nurse]
Maureen Love: By going to the SART meetings every month, for me, I'm never surprised to find that I have learned something new about each one of the disciplines that handles rape cases.
Host: Now that you know what a SART team is, let's change the focus and look at how your community could benefit from having one.
Linda Rinaldi: We know, from talking to the prosecutors, that there are more pleas, there are less trials, we have healthier victims, victims that are more willing to talk to law enforcement.
Host: There are hundreds of SART teams in this country. They may work in Honolulu or Hartford. They may have 4 members or 24 members. They may serve an American Indian tribe or other diverse populations. But we know wherever they are, whatever community they represent, much good comes from their work. Victims have access to all the services they need, communities feel safer, and offenders are held accountable.
Now let's take a look at two different SART teams: first, New Jersey. When establishing a SART operation here, criminal justice professionals wanted to ensure that victims would receive the same consistent quality care no matter where in the state a sexual assault occurred. What they created was a collaborative victim response system with statewide standards. Each county then used these standards to create their own SART response. Although the number and type of responders to sexual assaults may vary from county to county, the teams usually include a forensic medical professional, a law enforcement officer, a crime lab specialist, a prosecutor, and an advocate. An advocate is specially trained to provide information and to support victims as they explore their options.
[Tamika Love, Advocate, Coordinator, Sexual Trauma Crisis Center]
Tamika Love: We go to court with victims, we go to the police department with them, so the victim never has to feel alone. And that's really important, that, a lot of times our victims don't, have never had any interaction with law enforcement or may have a negative experience, and we're there to kind of keep them at ease when they go through the process.
Host: Forensic medical professionals can be either SANEs—sexual assault nurse examiners, or SAFEs—sexual assault forensic examiners, who are specially trained to address the patient's health care needs, facilitate the collection of evidence, and document physical findings.
Maureen Love: You get called at all times of the night and, you know, you make a commitment. And just knowing that you're not leaving that victim to dangle, you're not leaving them. And no stone is left unturned now that we have this SART program in place.
Host: Law enforcement includes specially trained local or federal police officers, tribal, military, campus police, or deputy sheriffs who investigate cases in a thorough nonjudgmental way.
[Stacey Lick, Detective]
Stacey Lick: I believe working together and having the main focus be the victim's needs is beneficial to the prosecution of the case, because if, at times we have victims that don't want to cooperate and without a victim, you can't prosecute the case. So I think when the victim sees that we come out and care about her collectively, it's very beneficial for her, but also for the team as well.
Host: SART prosecutors are specially trained attorneys who evaluate cases submitted by law enforcement to determine if there is sufficient evidence for prosecution. They may also help guide SARTs in the collection of evidence.
[Andrea Carter, Assistant Prosecutor, Middlesex County]
Andrea Carter: I'm able to more effectively prosecute a case where I know that I can speak to my SANE nurse and I can speak to the law enforcement involved, and know that we're all working towards one common goal and that is to prosecute people who commit these crimes.
Host: Crime lab specialists analyze the forensic evidence found in the sexual assault evidence collection kits that are prepared by SANEs or SAFEs.
[Tracey Purcell, Crime Lab Specialist]
Tracey Purcell: The evidence collection has improved with the onset of the kits, due to the fact that the SANE nurses that are collecting these kits are all trained.
Tamika Love: The reward of being part of a SART is to know that when the victim shows up, they're going to get—no matter what hospital—they're going to get a level of care that is excellent for them.
[John Esmerado, Assistant Prosecutor, Middlesex County]
John Esmerado: This program is all about helping survivors heal and we see that as a positive step for our civilization forward in how we treat women, how we treat men, and how we treat all people who have been survivors of crime.
Host: Some communities have a less structured way of handling sexual assault cases, like in Memphis, for example. The SART team here operates out of the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, or MSARC.
Julie Coffey: Our agency was formed in 1975 as the rape crisis comprehensive program, a prototype model for the community-based integrated programs' one-stop shop, i.e., a place where all aspects of the victim's needs were met onsite, from medical evaluation to forensic medical exams to advocacy to counseling.
Host: One of the challenges for the center is handling multiple jurisdictions. MSARC is uniquely situated; it's based in the southwest corner of Tennessee, in the urban center of Memphis. In addition to serving the city, they also serve northern Mississippi, northern Arkansas, and a naval air base.
Julie Coffey: And despite the jurisdictional lines, the differences in state laws, and distance between the multi-disciplines, and because of the collaboration of all involved, every single survivor of sexual assault receives that continuity of care, from the first call for help to the conviction of the crime.
[Michelle Sammos, Detective, West Memphis Police Department, AR]
Michelle Sammos: The Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center is like my backbone. They uh, they're wonderful, they help me, and they're the ones that I rely on as far as their evidence goes cause they're wonderful and they collect the best evidence.
Host: MSARC arranged to have a member of the Memphis Police Department on staff to assist with the chain of custody of thousands of pieces of evidence collected every year.
[Hyun Kristopher Kim, Criminalist II, Memphis Police Department]
Hyun Kristopher Kim: My current responsibility is really to maintain the chain of custody, and the chain of custody is very important because it assures the security of the evidence and the integrity of the evidence.
Host: In another partnership with the Memphis Police, victim advocates serve as law enforcement liaisons. Typically, they work 1 day a week with the Memphis Police Department's Sex Crimes Unit.
Forensic examiners provide expert and witness testimony in court. Their testimony is an important part of the criminal justice system and is often pivotal in court cases.
Julie Coffey: I go to bed every night knowing that our staff has worked with victims and provided the highest quality of service in helping them get to the other side of this tragedy and worked with them through their healing process, and that feels good.
Host: We chose to highlight the work of two effective teams here, but there are many SARTs all over the country who are improving services for victims and making their communities safer. As you've just seen, SART teams work. To learn more, go to NSVRC.ORG. The rewards benefit everyone.