Develop a SART
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Gather Community Data

Town Meetings

Town meetings, also called public forums, should be hosted at different sites around the community to ensure diverse and equal representation. These meetings allow participants to express their views about key issues and discuss what can be done about them. In North Dakota, for example, representatives from law enforcement, health care, advocacy, and forensic laboratory fields hosted public hearings throughout the state. The outcome from the meetings reinforced the need to develop a protocol for collecting the evidence of sexual assault and to create a forensic medical evidence collection kit to ensure that evidence is consistently collected and stored correctly.

Select a site for the meeting that is easy to find, accessible, and comfortable, such as a library or educational facility. Advertise and invite participants to forums by posting fliers and developing public service announcements and press releases. If you want the media to attend the hearings, you must publicize the likelihood that media may be present to ensure that participants understand beforehand that confidentiality is not guaranteed. You also can invite community agencies and organizations to attend, such as victim service agencies, mental health facilities, public agencies that may assist sexual assault victims (e.g., victims' compensation boards), medical facilities and associations, educational institutions, legislative offices, and ethnic, religious, and cultural organizations.

A public hearing—or even a series of public hearings—provides an opportunity for each segment of the community to participate in the development of your vision and mission. (See Create a Strategic Plan, the next section in this toolkit, for more information about creating vision and mission statements.)

Sample Agenda

I. Welcome/Opening Remarks

Description of the extent of sexual violence in the region and invitation for participants to express their views.

II. Statement of Need

SART member testimonials.

III. Statement by Elected Officials

Endorsement for SARTs.

IV. Open Forum
(3–5 minute limit per speaker)

  • What are the problems with the response to sexual violence?
  • What are the consequences?
  • Who is affected?
  • How are they affected (e.g., physically, economically, emotionally, spiritually)?
  • How can victim advocates, health care, and legal professionals help? What other community agencies would help?
  • What services would help victims over the long term?

V. Closing Remarks

Summary of comments and next steps.