Developing a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART)

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SARTs help meet the short- and long-term needs of sexual violence victims in the community.

Local communities develop sexual assault response teams (SARTs) to meet the short- and long-term needs of sexual violence victims. Each of the supporting agencies and individuals — including sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs)— brings expertise to make systematic changes and provide positive individual outcomes.

Developing a SART requires coordination and cooperation among the various stakeholders. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRS) said creating a SART can provide much-needed services to crime victims.

“By nature, SARTs are unique to their local circumstances but share three core goals: supporting victims, holding offenders accountable and increasing community safety,” the NSVRS said on its website. “Over time, most SARTs face challenges and identify gaps in services that require working to change systems. The most successful SARTs work to improve systems toward these three common goals.”

As interdisciplinary groups, SARTs are usually made up of victim advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors and SANEs, among others. The first step for registered nurses (RNs) who want to work as part of the community-based response team is earning an advanced nursing degree, including an online master’s in nursing.

Starting a SART

When communities begin forming a SART, stakeholders first must determine what will best suit their needs. Because rural and urban communities have different needs, the approaches may be different. The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) said there are several considerations before forming a team:

Determine the purpose

Establish why a team needs to be created and what it should accomplish. Speak with each agency or individual to determine specific short- and long-term goals.

Look for similar teams

Determine if the community already has a group working in the same capacity. If so, decide if or how the groups could work cooperatively. Also, decide how the groups will differentiate their work.

Select service area

Decide what area the team will service based on city or county limits or regions. When selecting a service area, look at the community demographics and other factors such as crime rates and available services.

Create a team

When seeking team members, look to community agencies that respond to sexual violence. These agencies should have the capacity to make system-wide changes in policies, protocols and practices. Core agencies should include law enforcement, victim and community advocates, medical providers (including SANEs), prosecutors and corrections. If the community includes military installations, colleges or universities or a large senior citizen population, representatives from those constituencies should be included as well.

Include victims

Sexual violence victims bring the compelling voice of experience to a team. They can provide insights that other individuals cannot.

Decide on a coordinator

One agency should take the lead to support the team’s work. The agency should handle team funding and house the team’s coordinator. At the same time, each agency takes on roles. All of the functions should be clearly defined and coordinated.

Formalize the process

Design an interagency agreement, a memo of understanding or a joint commitment letter that outlines each agency’s position in the team, including the expected participation, in-kind contributions and limitations.  The head of each agency or governing body should support the agreements.

Hold meetings

Regular meetings help coalesce the team, so the group must decide where and how often they should meet. The MNCASA recommends monthly meetings in the early years of the SART. Over time, the frequency can either increase or decrease depending on need.

The MNCASA said SARTs can provide meaningful change in a community by focusing on victims’ needs, holding offenders accountable and promoting public safety.

“By working together to improve system practices and protocols, teams can develop more effective responses that adapt to meet the needs of all victim-survivors,” the MNCASA said in “Sexual Violence Justice Institute: Change is Possible.”

Forensic Nursing and SARTs

Forensic nursing focuses on providing care to patients who have been victims of violence and trauma, integrating nursing theory with forensic science and law.

The federal Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), a branch of the U.S. Justice Department, said forensic nurse examiners focus on respect, mutual problem solving and recognizing that each patient has different needs.  Working as part of a SART or a group of SANEs, nurses should understand the importance of care — for patients, the community and self.

“The success of a SANE program cannot be fully measured by the number of patients seen or the number of cases prosecuted,” the OVC said in its SANE program development and operation guide. “The ultimate outcome for a program is to have every survivor feel cared for in a manner that allows them to start rebuilding their life after the assault.”

When wondering why get a masters in nursing, RNs look to the work of forensic nurses as challenging and rewarding. At Duquesne University, RNs learn advanced level skills through the online master’s in nursing program to work as a SANE and part of a SART. Duquesne University also offers an online Post-Master’s Certificate in forensic nursing for RNs who already have an MSN degree.

Learn More About Duquesne University’s Online MSN in Forensic Nursing

Duquesne University is proud of its exclusive partnership between the School of Nursing and the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law. The partnership allows registered nurses to earn a foundational education that melds applied forensic science with nursing theories and applications.

RNs who graduate from Duquesne University’s MSN in Forensic Nursing Online program work as SANEs, in partnership with SARTs and in independent practice. The program also provides opportunities for students to add a concentration in nursing education or transcultural nursing.

For more information about the programs, contact Duquesne University today.





SART Toolkit Section 1: NSVRC

Sexual Violence Justice Institute: Change is Possible: MNCASA

Forensic nursing: Overview of a growing profession: American Nurse Today

Conclusion: The Successful SANE Program: OVC