SART TOOLKIT: Resources for Sexual Assault Response Teams
Develop a SARTPrint Print

Create a Strategic Plan

Strategic planning is an organizational blueprint you can use to create a uniform vision and purpose that is shared by all SART members. The fundamental benefits of a strategic plan? You can use it to improve the quality of victim services you provide, set priorities, and determine the best direction for the SART's future. The plan is ultimately a set of decisions about what to do, why to do it, how to do it, and who will do it.

Strategic planning implies that some organizational decisions and actions are more important than others—and that much of the strategy lies in making the tough decisions about what is most important to achieving success. The process itself, however, promotes communication by bringing together multidisciplinary agencies with a common goal. Although there may be difficult discussions, strategic planning accommodates differing interests and values in the decisionmaking process.

Strategic- versus Long-Range Planning

Strategic planning assumes that a team must be responsive to a dynamic, changing environment.

Long-range planning assumes that current knowledge is sufficiently reliable to ensure a plan's reliability over the duration of its implementation.

As with any other organizational tool, you can do a little planning or a lot of planning. You'll know you have planned enough when team members understand and have consensus about the SART's direction and action steps. However, strategic planning doesn't necessarily end once the first plan is developed. Although strategic planning takes a long-range approach, it helps you determine progress, assess the validity of the plan, and make adjustments based on changing circumstances and emerging opportunities. Ultimately, a strategic plan is essential for enhanced service delivery and continued funding support.

The Right Tool

The Community Toolbox Offers step-by-step instructions, checklists, and related resources to help in the strategic planning process.

Strategic Planning Toolkit Covers preparation, implementation, communication, and evaluation.

You can create a strategic plan at any point of SART development, whether you are forming a team or have a team already established.1 First, assess the current response to sexual violence (see Collect Data for more information). Then, begin the strategic planning process:

Vision and Mission

Vision statements help define what your SART will be, how it can perform, and what it intends to do. For example, the vision statement of the New Mexico SANE Task Force is to have those affected by sexual violence receive consistent and quality medical treatment and forensic service from providers who meet the fundamental qualifications and training in the State of New Mexico.2 Likewise, each agency or organization within a SART may have its own vision statement. Finding common ground among multidisciplinary vision statements will help you define a new collaborative identity.

Your vision statement should be compelling and should convey your SART's desired future. The statement should be positive, in the present tense, brief enough to be memorable, realistic, credible, uniquely descriptive, easily communicated and understood, specific in purpose, a guide to action, and consistent with SART core values.

Vision statements that work combine four elements:

Mission statements are similar to vision statements, but they're more concrete and action oriented. For example, here is the mission statement of the DC Rape Crisis Center:

The DC Rape Crisis Center is dedicated to creating a world free of sexual violence. The Center works for social change through community outreach, education, and legal and public policy initiatives. It helps survivors and their families heal from the aftermath of sexual violence through crisis intervention, counseling and advocacy.

Committed to the belief that all forms of oppression are linked, the Center values accessibility, cultural diversity and the empowerment of women and children.

Understanding that there are unpredictable circumstances that can affect progress, you can make your mission statement a roadmap and operational standard for your SART's purposes. When creating your mission statement, ask yourself the following: "If the SART were to do one thing that would have the most positive impact, what would that thing be?" Other considerations include—

For example, Cuyahoga County's SART developed guiding principles for pursuing its mission and vision:3

The Right Tool

In This Toolkit: Sample Mission Statements (Word)

Defining Core Values

A crucial first step in developing a SART is defining mutually agreeable core values that can act as a filter for team decisions. For example, team values could include the following:1

  • Upholding victims' privacy and confidentiality.
  • Honoring cultural, physical, mental, emotional, and language needs of victims.
  • Committing to sexual assault prevention education.
  • Valuing victims' voices within the criminal justice system.
  • Remaining professional and innovative.
  • Working openly and collaboratively.
  • Treating everyone with respect.
  • Working to improve the response to sexual violence at the individual and systemic levels.

When developing your vision and mission statements, consider defining your team's core values as well.

1 Sexual and Wife Assault Project, 2002, Halton Community Response Protocols for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.

Goals and Objectives

Goals provide a framework for more detailed levels of planning. Objectives, on the other hand, are specific, quantifiable, and time-bound statements of tasks you want to accomplish or results you want to achieve. This section reviews—


Goals are more specific than mission statements. They can be set at a local, regional, institutional, state, territory, tribal, or campus level. State, territory, and military goals generally represent a broad strategic SART direction, whereas local, campus, tribal, or regional SARTs normally are more jurisdictionally specific.

One of the most important questions to address in creating goals is "Will the goals support the SART's vision and mission?" In addition, you also may want to address priorities synthesized from community needs assessment surveys. (See Collect Data in this toolkit for more information about surveys.)

Goals encompass a relatively long period—at least 3 years or more—or have no stated time period. They should address gaps between the current and desired level of service. According to the Strategic Planning Toolkit, goals and objectives are often used interchangeably, but they are different4:



Are broad.

Are narrow.

Include general intentions.

Are precise.

Are intangible.

Are tangible.

Are abstract.

Are concrete.

Are not tied to a timeframe.

Are always tied to a timeframe.


The crux of writing realistic objectives is learning what changes need to happen to fulfill your mission. It is generally best to start with objectives that have short-term action steps that are attainable and tangible. This strategy gives you early and positive results from which to build your SART's next steps. Objectives should be5

When developing your objectives, include problems to be resolved within social, legal, economic, political, and policy contexts. In other words, brainstorm what is currently being done to address sexual violence and by whom and whether there are recent events or social or economic trends and policy shifts that could affect your objectives. In addition, consider past efforts to respond to the same or closely related needs, the consequences and lessons learned from those efforts, and what additional knowledge is needed to proceed successfully. For example, are there innovative practices in other jurisdictions that are relevant to your objectives? To what extent could you adapt and incorporate them into your own?

Setting attainable objectives requires a system that you can follow to prioritize them. To start, consider using the following chart:


Priority Rationale

Must Do

Objectives that are important and feasible.

Important To Try

Objectives that are important but will be difficult to accomplish.

Easy To Do

Objectives that are easy to accomplish but may not be very important. Making these objectives a priority provides speedy benchmarks for success.

Last Resort

Objectives of low importance that are difficult to complete.

You also may want to consider completing a self-assessment grid—a tool that allows you to score organizations on their organizational capacity, determining where they are strong and where they need work. In other words, the grid can help you identify infrastructures that support your objectives, thereby enabling you to identify those objectives that are most feasibly accomplished.

Action Plan

Action plans lay out the main steps in carrying out a specific objective. In addition to the steps, action plans can include the responsible persons, completion dates, and resources required. Your plan also should document potential barriers and potential allies to engage so that you can address challenges proactively.

Action Step

Persons Responsible

Date Completed

Resources Required

Potential Barriers or Resistance


What will happen?

Who will do what?

Timing of each action step

Resources and support (what is needed and what is available)

Individuals or agencies that may oppose the plan

Who else should know about or be involved in this action?

A sample action plan showing the mission, goal, and two objectives follows:

Mission: To ensure the coordination of a consistent, competent, respectful, victim-centered response to sexual violence.

Goal: To promote collaborative partnerships.

Objective 1: Establish a SART composed of an investigator, prosecutor, health care professional, forensic laboratory specialist, victim advocate, and civil legal attorney.

Action Step


Date Completed




Set an introductory SART meeting time and location.






Invite potential team members.






Host introductory team meeting.






Obtain commitment from members.






Decide future meeting times.






Develop vision and mission statements.






Develop core team values.






Define team members' roles and responsibilities.






Objective 2: Develop multidisciplinary protocols. (For more information, see Protocols in this section.)

Action Steps


Date Completed




Determine which problems or barriers impede victim participation in the criminal justice system.






Obtain statistics—the rate and types of sexual violence.






Compile records of existing resources.






Survey victims and the community.






Write a report from survey data.






Identify which policies, procedures, or laws need to be changed or introduced.






Identify and prioritize issues to address.






Complete role and responsibility matrix for each agency.






Create a SART protocol based on roles and responsibilities.






Create written interagency agreements (memorandums of understanding or agreement).






Train agency staff on SART protocols and guidelines.






Monitor implementation of protocols.






Evaluate effectiveness of protocols.






Logic Model

Once teams have defined and prioritized their goals and objectives, the next step is the construction of a logic model—a way of thinking that links your SART's activities to the outcomes you hope to achieve.

Logic models help you define6

Although you should develop your logic model when you first plan your SART, know that it isn't static or detached from ongoing SART activities; you also can use it for focusing evaluation efforts. (See Monitor and Evaluate Your Efforts in this toolkit for more information about evaluation.)

Generally, it is easiest to work backwards. Once you define desired outcomes, you can identify activities that are needed to achieve them. Once you identity activities (outputs), you can determine which resources (inputs) are needed to develop and implement them.

Inputs are resources dedicated to the program. Examples are money, staff and staff time, volunteers and volunteer time, facilities, equipment, and supplies.

Outputs are the direct products of program activities and usually are measured in terms of the volume of work accomplished. For example, the numbers of community referrals, medical forensic exams, and cases investigated and prosecuted.

Outcomes are benefits to victims and the criminal justice system based on coordinated service delivery. For example, victims may be more willing to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their cases because their practical, emotional, psychological, social, and economic needs are prioritized.

When creating a logic model, ask yourself the following questions:

Sample SART Logic Model

Goal: Increase interagency communication to ensure more consistent, victim-centered responses.

Objective: Develop a responsibility matrix to coordinate medical, legal, and advocacy responses.


Document medical, legal, and advocacy (primary and secondary) responsibilities in responding to sexual assault victims.


Ask each agency on the SART to verify and document its responsibilities when responding to victims. Create an interagency responsibility matrix and share it with SART agencies and allied agencies to ensure they understand the SART process.



A. SART members are knowledgeable about specific roles and responsibilities of team members.
B. Community organizations, educational institutions, and medical facilities are prepared to provide referrals to SART agencies.


A. Develop or revise SART protocols or guidelines based on cross-system responsibilities in responding to victims.
B. Follow response protocols to ensure seamless delivery of services, regardless of which agency that victims initially contact.


A. Revise protocols based on emerging medical, legal, and advocacy issues.
B. Support victims immediately after disclosure and ensure that they receive services for as long as needed.


SART protocols (or guidelines) are an agreement between agencies about the provision of sexual assault services and the roles and responsibilities of core responders in providing those services. Ultimately, protocols allow you to institutionalize interagency roles and responsibilities to maintain high-quality, consistent responses over the long term.

Comprehensive protocols can7

This section reviews—

Protocol Basics

Protocols are working documents that provide direction to sexual assault responders to ensure that they consider victims' wishes and requests and maintain the quality and integrity of evidence. A number of issues must be addressed in every protocol, such as definitions of basic terms, procedures for key personnel, storage and transport of evidence, response checklists (including activation procedures and agency referrals), and important instructions for victims (e.g., the importance of not eating, drinking, urinating, bathing, or showering until the forensic medical examination is performed).

Your work is not complete when your protocol is written. The protocol, per se, is not so much a final product as it is a blueprint that will change and grow as more information becomes available.8

Read on for information about—

Determining Responsibilities

SART protocol development requires each agency on your SART to customize its sexual assault protocols or guidelines to fit into a multidisciplinary, coordinated response. Because interagency response systems differ, a SART responsibility matrix can help team members organize their roles and responsibilities to facilitate an integrated protocol for the team.

What is a responsibility matrix? It's a tool you can develop that quickly shows all team members what their roles are and what other team members' roles are, organized by the service provided. One example is the Minnesota Model Sexual Assault Response Protocol. The matrix does not represent all the steps involved in the handling of every sexual assault case; to remain manageable, it lists tasks that directly involve or affect victims or have considerable implications for the team. You can use this matrix as a guide, but you will need to customize it to fit your SART's needs and also should update the matrix periodically to account for any changes taking place in your jurisdiction (e.g., changes in the law, technology, nature of crime).

Being Flexible

You will need to balance the need for structure and certainty with a system that allows for flexibility based on victims' specific needs and case variables. For example, once policies are written, there could be legal or procedural repercussions when procedures are not followed, no matter how compelling the reason.

To offset this potential problem, some teams refrain from using the term protocol and write their policies as guidelines to minimize legal repercussions when policies are not followed.

Following Statutes

Some teams develop protocols for each judicial district as mandated by statute. For example, Georgia Statute 15-24-2 mandates the formation of a sexual assault protocol committee, stipulates who will serve on the committee, and governs the frequency of meetings. The statute states that the protocol shall be a written document outlining in detail the procedures used for investigating, collecting evidence, paying for expenses related to evidence collection, and prosecuting cases arising from alleged sexual assault. Once the protocol is written, the protocol committee continues to meet at least annually to evaluate the effectiveness of the protocol and appropriately modify and update it. The statute further states that a failure by an agency to follow the protocol shall not constitute an affirmative or other defense to prosecution of a sexual assault, nor shall a failure by an agency to follow the protocol give rise to a civil cause of action.

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  


Medical/Forensic Officials

Law Enforcement


Vulnerable Populations

Cultural Considerations

Formal Endorsement

Interagency agreements, also called memorandums of understanding (MOUs) or memorandums of agreement (MOAs), do not replace agency policy—they memorialize collaborative guidelines. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense directs military installations in the United States (and overseas, where appropriate) to establish a formal MOU with local community service providers and other military services to10

The Right Tool

In This Toolkit:

Sample MOU (developed by the SAFEta Project)


Training is a crucial part of the protocol adoption process that ensures each agency and organization understands how the protocol affects it. You'll need to decide what training is needed, who should receive training (specific to each position in each agency), how much training is needed, and how the training can be evaluated.11

Your training program can cover SART activation, community resources, victims' rights, legal requirements, medical responses, advocacy responses, investigative strategies and procedures, multicultural responses, court procedures, and victim support. These are just a few of the areas in which team members should receive training. Training in every area should include a balance between system requirements and victim-centered activities.

Here are a few tips about setting up a training program:


Because protocol development and revision are an ongoing, dynamic process, monitoring allows you to assess the need for policy adjustments. To help with the process, consider the following questions as a springboard to determine your protocol's challenges and successes:

Monitoring protocol implementation is critical to an effective team response. For example, if a particular response is consistently not executed, it will be difficult to evaluate the SART's effectiveness. The point is not to hinder innovation that can improve the response, but to recognize that the effectiveness of a coordinated response is based on the consistent follow-through of endorsed principles and policies. In other words, deviations from the response cannot help to improve the response if they are not understood and ultimately supported by the whole team.

Methods for monitoring protocol implementation can take many forms. Some teams use completed checklists, a review of records or cases, and self-reporting from responding team members to determine the level to which the protocol is being implemented. Others incorporate anonymous victim experience surveys into their assessment process. To be successful, the monitoring plan should be connected to short-term and long-range goals for improving the response. For example, if teams believe that early disclosure will result in victims getting more of their needs addressed, a monitoring plan may underscore the initial, acute response to sexual violence.


Evaluating protocol implementation can help you understand how well the protocol facilitates the team's goals and objectives. Traditional measures of success in the criminal justice system (e.g., conviction rates, clearance rates, arrest statistics) only tell part of the story. You also must evaluate the team's effectiveness in meeting victims' needs.

Consider the following questions:12


Action Plan to Implement the Recommendations of the HMCPSI/HMIC Joint Investigation into the Investigation and Prosecution of Cases Involving Allegations of Rape
Lists practical action steps to improve police investigation of rape cases, provide training to police and prosecutors, enhance decisionmaking and case preparations, and improve the treatment of rape victims and witnesses.

Best Practices in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Assault Cases
Links to an interagency responsibility matrix used by the Minnesota Model Protocol Project that focuses on tasks that directly involve or affect victims or have considerable implications for teaming.

Collaboration Framework—Addressing Community Capacity
Helps individuals who are either starting collaborations or need help in strengthening an existing collaboration.

Community Organizational Assessment Tool
Helps guide group discussion about how a board of directors, organization, or committee is functioning. Can easily be adapted by SARTs.

Community Tool Box
Provides practical information to support work in promoting community development. There are sections on leadership, strategic planning, community assessment, problem analysis, grant writing, and evaluation to give just a few examples.

County of San Diego Sexual Assault Response Team: Systems Review Committee Report
Summarizes SART accomplishments and standardized procedures and outlines future SART program goals.

Denver Victim Services 2000 Needs Assessment
Reviews Denver's needs assessment, which generated information that contributed to the creation of several critical components of a coordinated victim services network (e.g., a shared case management system, an interagency cross-training plan, standardized service evaluation, cultural competency training).

Developing a Sexual Assault Response Team: A Resource Guide For Kentucky Communities
Discusses an eight-step model process for developing a SART, program models, and many other issues that communities must explore when implementing a SART program.

Enhancing Program Performance with Logic Models: Logic Model Basics
Teaches users the basics of logic models.

From Problems to Strengths
Provides an introductory overview of "appreciative inquiry," which is a strategy for purposeful change that identifies the best of what is to pursue possibilities of what could be.

Handbook on Justice for Victims
Provides practical and comprehensive guidance for service providers.

Hawai'i Statewide Strategic Plan for Victim Services
Highlights the special needs of underserved victims of crime who are tourists or visitors, immigrants, or people with limited English proficiency, disabilities, or who are elderly.

Including Evaluation in Outreach Project Planning
Includes information on developing outcomes-based projects and assessment plans, describes how to use a logic model at different stages of development, and provides sample data resources and evaluation methods.

Logic Model Builders
Takes users through the process of developing a customized logic model (requires user to establish an account).

Logic Model Worksheet
Allows users to chart inputs, outputs, and outcomes.

Logic Models: What Are They and Why Would Anyone Except Spock Care?
Explains the logic model and how it determines outcomes.

Looking Back, Moving Forward
Helps communities organize and carry out the steps in developing and implementing a multidisciplinary, interagency, victim-centered protocol.

OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center
Provides victim service professionals with developmental support, mentoring, and facilitation in areas such as program design and implementation, strategic planning, program management, evaluation, quality improvement, collaboration, and community coordination.

The Response to Sexual Assault: Removing Barriers to Services and Justice
Enables communities, victim advocacy organizations, medical systems, criminal justice systems, and other key systems in Michigan to design and support effective local and state responses to sexual assault involving adults and adolescents.

Toolkit to End Violence Against Women
Includes recommendations for strengthening prevention efforts and improving services and advocacy for victims. Chapters of interest to SARTs may include information for the military, colleges and universities, American Indians, community-based services, mental health care, criminal and civil justice remedies, faith-based organizations, and educating the public.

Using Analysis for Problem-Solving: A Guidebook for Law Enforcement
Provides police practitioners with a resource for conducting problem analysis. It is not a text on research methods but instead identifies issues and concerns police practitioners face in analyzing problems.

A Vision To End Sexual Assault: The CALCASA Strategic Forum Report
Raises public awareness of critical issues, thereby changing community consciousness about sexual violence.


1 OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center, 2004, Strategic Planning Toolkit, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

2 Correspondence with Connie Monahan, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Coordinator, nd, New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.

3 Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Response Team, 2005, SART Standards of Practice, Cleveland, OH: Cuyahoga County Sexual Assault Response Team.

4 OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center, Strategic Planning Toolkit, 3–5.

5 Work Group for Community Health and Development, nd, "Developing a Strategic Plan: Creating Objectives," Community Tool Box, Lawrence, KS: Work Group for Community Health and Development.

6 Adapted from Nicole Allen and Leslie Hagen, 2003, A Practical Guide to Evaluating Domestic Violence Coordinating Councils, Harrisburg, PA: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 45.

7 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2000, "Forming a Team," Forming a Multidisciplinary Team to Investigate Child Abuse, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

8 Correspondence with Donna Dunn, nd, Sexual Violence Justice Institute, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

9 Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, 2002, Oregon Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force SART Handbook, Version I, Salem, OR: Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force.

10 U.S. Department of Defense, 2006, "Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Procedures," Department of Defense Instruction, Number 6495.02.

11 Anita Boles and John Patterson, 1997, Improving Community Response to Crime Victims, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 101–107.

12 Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, Oregon Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force SART Handbook, Version I.

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