How Far We’ve Come: The Sexual Assault Response Systems Project

Aug 21st, 1970

By Amanda Cardone, Program Supervisor The Sexual Assault Response Systems (SARS) Project, which began as the SAFE/SART program in 2002, focuses on professional training and technical assistance for professional sexual assault responders. While our audience is broad, we have special programs devoted to victim advocates, forensic nurses, and multidisciplinary Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) across Maryland. Advocate Training The SARS Project coordinates and co-delivers statewide Comprehensive Sexual Assault Victim Advocacy trainings to member rape crisis and recovery center program staff and volunteers as well as others in the state who wish to be more effective advocates for sexual assault survivors. These sessions are typically held twice per year and cover a wide variety of important topics including history and models of victim advocacy, the effects of trauma and vicarious trauma, the roles of all first responders, and obstacles for underserved communities. FNE Training MCASA has worked to support and encourage Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner programs for many years. There are now 22 programs in Maryland employing 146 forensic nurse examiners (FNEs), up from 19 programs employing 84 FNEs in 2001. You can read more about the current state of SAFE programs in last year’s survey report. In 2012, the SARS project began coordinating Statewide Forensic Nurse Examiner Trainings and looks forward to continuing that initiative next year. MCASA’s efforts are led by a multidisciplinary Advisory Panel and Core Faculty of medical providers who provide the expertise necessary for high quality trainings.  Maryland still faces a shortage of FNEs. The next training will be in February 2012; interested registered nurses may sign up here. SART There has been a proliferation of Sexual Assault Response Teams around the state with 22 active teams. SARTs are multidisciplinary teams including law enforcement, forensic nurses, advocates, and prosecutors. Some teams include victim attorneys, child advocacy center staff, or other allied professionals. Maryland SARTs are typically countywide (or citywide in the case of Baltimore), although some college campuses have also instituted the SART model. SARTs in Maryland vary widely by jurisdiction, which is of no surprise given the diversity in urban vs. rural areas and rates of crime, but all aim to collaborate in order to provide the most effective response/services to sexual assault survivors while seeking accountability for offenders. In 2005, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act stipulated that sexual assault victim-survivors could not be required to participate with the criminal justice system/law enforcement in order to obtain a forensic medical exam. Maryland implemented this part of the VAWA legislation with an “anonymous” or “Jane/John Doe” option when victim-survivors report to a hospital for a SAFE exam. The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention issued a model policy for complying with this aspect of VAWA, and MCASA/SALI had considerable input. MCASA has provided training and technical assistance on the implementation of this law, kept abreast of national best practices as they develop around the country, and continues to troubleshoot and train SART professionals on the “Jane/John Doe” SAFE exam process as needed. MCASA’s work to buoy and sustain SARTs has happened in tandem with other developments at the national level. For example, the National SART Toolkit was published by the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime in 2011. There has also been additional research on the effectiveness of SART and SAFE programs which shows enhanced outcomes for both victims and the criminal justice process. (See here, here, and here). MCASA recently completed a statewide survey of SART members and is analyzing the data. The report will be completed this fall, and online team resources will be developed using what is learned from the data. For help supporting or developing a SART in your community, contact Amanda Cardone at [email protected]. This article is part of the Fall 2012 issue of Frontline.

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