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Multidisciplinary Issues

When developing your protocol, you'll need to consider optimal responses from the agencies or organizations that victims will likely contact in the aftermath of sexual violence, and you should address specific needs proactively. For example, how will your response be different if victims choose not to report the sexual assault? How will you address the specific needs of victims with limited English proficiency, victims with disabilities, victims who are intoxicated or drugged prior to the assault, or victims who are assaulted by intimate partners?

Following are some multidisciplinary-related questions to consider when developing your protocol:9  


  • Who will provide which services and when? How will advocates be dispatched? Are there jurisdictional issues to consider?
  • For advocates within the criminal justice system, when does their role begin and end? What is their role if the case is not pursued within the criminal justice system?
  • How will advocates observe confidentiality rules (e.g., during team meetings or case reviews)?
  • How will you ensure that all team members understand their roles and boundaries?
  • How will advocates prioritize the needs of the victim, medical personnel, law enforcement, and prosecutors?
  • How will victims who do not want to report their assaults access advocates?
  • If a victim does not choose to report but wants the perpetrator identified to law enforcement, can you accommodate the request?
  • Should advocates respond to secondary victims (e.g., family, friends)?

Medical/Forensic Officials

  • What is the current medical response to sexual assault in your jurisdiction?
  • Is your response as effective as it needs to be? Why or why not?
  • Who attends to sexual assault victims, and what do they do (e.g., physician assistants, emergency medical technicians, family nurse practitioners)?
  • What is the timeframe for performing exams?
  • Would involving a trained sexual assault nurse examiner improve your response? How would it benefit the victim?
  • How will you ensure adequate medical followup?
  • Are exam facilities accessible, private, and available 24/7?
  • How does the forensic evidence collected by a sexual assault nurse examiner fit into the larger evidence collection context?

Law Enforcement

  • Are patrol officers trained in responding to sexual violence?
  • What are the specific roles of dispatch? Patrol officers? Detectives? Law enforcement supervisors?
  • Is there a best practice when it comes to the initial victim interview? Followup interviews?
  • How many interviews are usually sufficient? Who conducts each interview? Is there an ideal place to conduct followup interviews?
  • Can advocates be present during interviews?
  • Which types of evidence should always be collected, and which types should depend on the circumstances of the sexual assault?
  • Is there a role in the evidence collection process for taped phone calls between victims and (known) perpetrators (pretext calls)? Will pretext calls be done at the instigation of the police or the district attorney's office?
  • When, where, and how will suspect exams be performed?
  • Is law enforcement routinely in contact with corrections regarding suspects who are under supervision?
  • What resources are available for victims and suspects with specific needs?


  • Are sexual assault cases difficult to prosecute? Why? What team procedures could enhance prosecution?
  • What should be included in an optimal investigation of sexual assault?
  • After law enforcement completes its investigation, how do prosecutors handle the need for additional investigation?
  • Are prosecutors trained in handling sexual assault cases?
  • Should the district attorney's office review every sexual assault case reported to any law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction?
  • How do prosecutors determine whether to prosecute sexual assault cases? For example, are cases selected because there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt or because of community safety or victim impact?
  • Would it be helpful to have specialized sexual assault units in the prosecutor's office?
  • How do prosecutors inform victims when their cases do not go forward?
  • When should the prosecutor contact the victim directly? When does a prosecutor-based victim/witness assistant contact victims?

Vulnerable Populations

  • Which characteristics define vulnerability?
  • Which populations are considered vulnerable in your community?
  • Which individuals are least likely to be believed if they disclose sexual assault?
  • What available resources will assist in the investigation, support, and prosecution of cases involving vulnerable victims?
  • When must sexual assault against vulnerable adults be reported to authorities? Which agencies investigate and protect vulnerable populations?

Cultural Considerations

  • What is already in place within SART member agencies to promote cultural competence? How can you more effectively use what is already in place?
  • How can you ensure that your SART's sexual assault responses meet the needs of specific populations?
  • Are there special training needs to meet?
  • In what ways do you need to consider cultural issues when responding to victims' families?
  • What would an ideal sexual assault response be for a non-English speaking survivor? Someone who is undocumented? An exchange student? Lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual victims?