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Office for Victims of Crime
2013 OVC Report to the Nation: Fiscal Years 2011-2012 'Transforming Today's Vision into Tomorrow's Reality'
Report to the Nation Home  |  Message From the Director  |  Exhibits

Sexual Assault

Photo of woman with her hands covering her mouth

Sexual assault is a pervasive and enduring crime, crossing all socioeconomic, cultural, and geographic boundaries. In the United States, nearly one in five women and one in six men are raped in their lifetime,6 but only one in four victims reports the crime.7 This widespread underreporting, coupled with limited resources, means that many victims go without the help they need to heal their physical and emotional wounds. OVC is committed to ensuring that every victim receives skilled, compassionate care; in FYs 2011 and 2012, VOCA state funds supported assistance to nearly 400,000 victims throughout the Nation. However, much more needs to be done, as demonstrated by a survey that found that half of rape crisis centers reduced staff last year and 65 percent had waiting lists for counseling services.8


2011 SART Conference: "Together We Can!"

In May 2011, OVC collaborated with the SANE–SART Resource Service to present the Sixth National Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Training Conference in Austin, Texas. More than 1,000 participants were drawn to the biennial event, which offered more than 70 workshops, including a new tribal track. The conference theme—"Together We Can!"—resonated with the SARTs, SANEs, and associated specialists who received state-of-the-art training to improve services through collaboration, particularly for underserved victims. Also at the conference, OVC released the Existe Ayuda (Help Exists) Toolkit, a Web-based bilingual resource to enhance the cultural competence of those serving Latina/o victims.

At the close of the conference, then-Acting Director Joye E. Frost moderated a public forum with White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal, OVW Director Susan Carbon, and other experts. The forum, "Public and Private Partnerships: Building on Success to Reshape the Future," stressed how innovative partnerships and leveraged resources can substantially enhance the field's ability to serve victims.

Improving Services for Military Victims of Sexual Assault

In one of a number of actions to address sexual assault in the U.S. military and provide appropriate support to victims, OVC teamed with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and other partners to educate local service providers about military systems, protocols, and culture, with the goal of improving services for victimized service members through strong military-civilian partnerships. The interactive 2-day curriculum, Strengthening Military-Civilian Community Partnerships To Respond to Sexual Assault, was developed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), and DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. To ensure that the training is made available where it's most needed, OVC's Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) and project partners are marketing it to advocates near military installations with a high incidence of sexual assaults. OVC TTAC is offering this training by request after completing a training-of-trainers program to qualify 51 professionals, including community-based victim advocates, military sexual assault response coordinators, and judge advocates, to conduct the course nationwide.

Using Technology To Reach Underserved Victims

Modern technology holds great promise for meeting the needs of crime victims, particularly those whose access to assistance is complicated by socioeconomic factors, society's intolerance, geographic isolation, and other realities. Telemedicine—a combination of telecommunication and information technologies that provide care from a distance—has proved successful in expanding access to treatment while significantly reducing costs. OVC and the National Institute of Justice, in partnership with the U.S. Navy and the Indian Health Service (IHS), are supporting the development of the first telemedicine center to provide live, around-the-clock access to sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) and other forensic experts. The project's rural, tribal, correctional, and military pilot sites represent populations that are often difficult to reach with high-quality services, so the project has the potential to increase assistance to thousands of victims who might not otherwise receive expert forensic medical care.

Of Special Interest

  • Sexual violence, which includes intimate partner and dating violence, stalking, and sexual harassment, as well as sexual assault, is all too common on the Nation's college campuses. OVC, OVW, and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services partnered with the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to present a forum in Washington, D.C., in January 2011 that focused on improving the quality of response to victims of sexual assault on campus. The discussion was summarized in a report, Promoting Effective Criminal Investigations of Campus Sex Crimes, available on OVC's Web site.
  • Sexual assault response teams (SARTs) are highly effective in providing a well-coordinated response to victims of sexual assault by leveraging the specialized knowledge of each team member. In 2011, OVC released a comprehensive SART Toolkit to help communities establish new SARTs and enhance the effectiveness of existing SARTs. Developed by the Sexual Assault Resource Center with OVC funding, the online kit is designed to increase victims' access to services, improve investigative practices, and help teams form sustainable partnerships. More than 77,000 users have accessed the kit since it was launched on OVC's Web site.
  • Sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) and sexual assault forensic examiners (SAFEs) are critical members of SART teams. OVC supported the Research Triangle Institute, Inc., (RTI) in the development of a set of online training modules to provide advanced education to these specialists in cases of drug-facilitated sexual assault. During FYs 2010 through 2012, RTI presented each module in a virtual classroom on its Web site before making them available on demand.
  • OVC is supporting FORGE, Inc., in the development of an online toolkit, webinars, and related materials to improve service providers' understanding of the specific needs of transgender victims of sexual violence, provide culturally competent care, and reach out to community groups to build awareness of the services available. The toolkit will be available in 2013.

More About Related Programs

6 National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, 2012 Rape Crisis Center Survey, www.endsexualviolence.org/where-we-stand/2012-rape-crisis-center-survey (accessed November 2, 2012).

7 Rand, M. and S. Catalano, 2007, Criminal Victimization, 2006, Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

8 Ibid.