Develop a SART
skip navigation 


Systems Advocates

Systems advocates work on behalf of all rape victims to change knowledge, beliefs, policies, and practices within medical, legal, and advocacy systems.

  • Medical systems can include public or private agencies or facilities such as community hospitals, specialty hospitals, campus health services, community and American Indian health centers, physician networks, home health agencies, and long-term care services.
  • Legal systems can include criminal, civil, juvenile, military, tribal, and campus justice systems.
  • Advocacy systems can include public and private agencies such as rape crisis centers, culturally specific organizations, faith-based organizations, educational institutions, mental health and substance abuse agencies, agencies serving individuals with disabilities, translators and interpreters, and organizations that provide economic and housing assistance or literacy services.

Although systems advocates work proactively to address issues, specific cases are often a catalyst for systems change. For example, when an adult victim was brutally raped by a juvenile in Oklahoma, the adult victim was not allowed to have an advocate or support person with her during the court proceedings yet the offender was allowed to have his family present. Although prosecutors attempted to persuade the court to allow the victim's advocate to be present, the judge ruled that under current law, the court hearings for juvenile offenders were private (the law stated that only persons having a direct interest in the case are permitted to attend juvenile court proceedings). After the case was adjudicated, the victim, the victim's advocate, and the prosecuting attorney's office worked with state legislators to amend the law to specify that victim advocates and other support persons do have a direct interest in the case and can attend private, juvenile court proceedings. (See Title 10A: Children and Juvenile Code, ยง 10A-2-2-402, of the Oklahoma Statutes.)

To make meaningful system changes, SART members must understand and be committed to the fact that all victims deserve equal and easy access to competent, compassionate, and comprehensive services. This commitment needs to be acknowledged whether victims seek services at rape crisis centers, health care facilities, American Indian centers, family planning clinics, campus health service departments, domestic violence shelters, community centers, military bases, substance abuse treatment centers, or through the criminal justice system.

The services provided also need to meet the needs of victims regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, occupation, sexual orientation, language, or disability. In Pennsylvania, for example, statewide disability advocacy agencies, disability experts, victim service advocates, and other interested professionals joined forces as part of the Cross Systems Advocacy Coalition to train and educate each other in how best to address trauma in the lives of people with disabilities. Some successes include training related to trauma and sexual and domestic violence for personnel at the state mental health hospital and ongoing systems advocacy at the local level.2