Learn About SARTs
What Is Sexual Assault? . What Is a SART? . How Did SARTs Evolve?
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History of SARTs

In the 1980s

In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association added posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Exposure to rape, torture, and severe war zones were defined as catastrophic events that can result in PTSD.

In December 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed a Task Force on Victims of Crime. This task force published 68 recommendations for improving the treatment of crime victims.9 The recommendations were directed at both the public and private sectors, including the criminal justice system. (New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century, a 1998 report, reviewed the progress made in meeting the 1982 recommendations.)

In 1987, Howard and Connie Clery established Security on Campus, Inc., following the tragic robbery, rape, and murder of their daughter Jeanne at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. The organization provides resources for victims and service providers and works to raise national awareness about crime and victimization on college campuses.

In 1988, OVC established the Victim Assistance in Indian Country (VAIC) discretionary grant program to assist American Indian tribes in developing reservation-based victim assistance programs in remote areas of Indian Country. Since its inception, VAIC has touched the lives of thousands of American Indians requiring victim assistance services in Indian Country, where the highest ethnic crime rate exists in the United States.10

During the same year, case law set precedence for using expert testimony to explain the behavior and mental state of adult rape victims. State v. Ciskie (751 P.2d 1165 (Wash. 1988)) ruled that expert testimony can be used to show why victims of repeated physical and sexual assaults by intimate partners would not immediately call the police or take other action.

SART Initiatives

Joint Medical/Legal Victim Interviews Conducted—San Luis Obispo County, California (1980)
Laura Slaughter, M.D., in collaboration with a group of nurses at San Luis Obispo County General Hospital, organized the first SART-like team in California in 1980. The team of law enforcement officers, sexual assault advocates, and on-call trained physicians conducted joint interviews to minimize the number of times victims were required to repeat (and often relive) the painful facts of their cases.

Source: California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 2001, California Sexual Assault Response Team Manual, Chapter 1, Sacramento, CA: California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

SART Institute Established—Santa Cruz County, California (1985)
Beginning in 1985, the Santa Cruz County District Attorney consulted with the local rape crisis center and formed a task force after he learned of San Luis Hospital's model and of a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program in Houston, Texas. The models were combined to form California's first formalized SART. In 1987, Cabrillo College's SART Institute was created, serving as a catalyst to memorialize SARTs and to help replicate the SART model nationally.

Community-Based Exam Facility Started—Memphis, Tennessee (1988)
In 1988, the Rape Crisis Comprehensive Program (RCCP), an early pioneer for SART models, began to expand its multidisciplinary partnerships and services through collaborative agreements with local hospitals. The agreements mandated that when victims of sexual assault appeared at an emergency department and did not need medical intervention, they would be immediately transported to RCCP (the designated exam facility) and met by sexual assault forensic nurse examiners. This procedure reduced victims' waiting times to less than an hour and provided care in a private and comfortable location. During the same year, RCCP and the University of Tennessee (Memphis) collaborated to integrate educational materials related to the forensic medical-legal evaluation of victims of interpersonal violence into the curriculum for physicians and nurses.