Hold Team Meetings . Monitor and Evaluate Your Efforts . Sustain Your SART . Know Your Team . Critical Issues
Responding to questions and providing a narrative account about what happened can be very difficult for victims. Although SARTs' interview styles vary, two models stand out:31
Alaska Statewide Protocols for Sexual Assault Response Teams States that whenever possible, victims should be allowed to speak with victim advocates prior to the start of the interview.
California Penal Code 679.04 Mandates that victims of sexual assault have the right to have victim advocates at any interview by law enforcement authorities, district attorneys, or defense attorneys unless law enforcement or the defense attorney deem the advocate's presence detrimental to the purpose of the interview.
New Jersey Attorney General Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault States that victims should be allowed to speak with a rape care advocate before investigative and forensic interviews or procedures, and that the advocate can be present during the interviews and procedures.
- Single interview model: Medical forensic examiners, advocates, and law enforcement officers jointly interview victims. Drawbacks of this model?
- Information important for law enforcement may not be necessary for medical exams.
- Some victims are more likely to share details of the crime with a medical practitioner when officers are not present.
- Patients may not be ready to speak with law enforcement or may not be ready to go into extensive details about the facts of their assaults.
- Joint interviews can lead to the blurring of SART roles.
- Multiple interview model: Medical and legal interviews are performed independently. Drawbacks of this model?
- Victims have to repeat the facts of cases.
- Multiple interviewing can cause conflicts with investigations. Trauma impairs the victim's memory of timelines and the sequence of events. The validity of multiple reports can be undermined when victims disclose varying information over time to multiple responders.
SARTs differ widely as to whether advocates should attend victim interviews with law enforcement. Some SARTs do not have specific protocols or statutes governing the issue and rely on the discretion of law enforcement on a case-by-case basis. Others do not support advocates being present during interviews to ensure privileged communications. Professor Doug Beloof at Lewis and Clark Law School cautions against advocates attending interviews because they could be subpoenaed to testify against victims if their recollections differ from victims.32 This concern, however, can be minimized in jurisdictions in which law enforcement agencies videotape interviews.
In jurisdictions in which advocates are excluded from attending law enforcement interviews, advocates often accompany victims to the agency and provide support directly after the interview. In this way, advocates help victims debrief following the often difficult and painful process of answering questions about their assaults.