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

In the 21st Century

At the turn of the century, several high-profile civil tort suits against the Catholic Church dealt with sexual assaults committed by professionals. With successful civil litigation, more and more cases of sexual assault by professionals were considered for criminal prosecution. The Victim Rights Law Center, created in 2000, was one of the first law centers in the Nation dedicated solely to serving the legal needs of sexual assault victims.

National standards for core SART responders also took root. In 2004, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) developed a National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations to help health care providers, law enforcement officers, advocates, and others address the health needs of victims of sexual assault and minimize any additional trauma to victims caused by the reporting process. In 2006, OVW created a companion to the protocol, the National Training Standards for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiners, to provide a framework for specialized education of medical forensic examiners to meet the health care, information, and forensic needs of adult and adolescent sexual assault patients presenting for medical forensic exams.

In 2003, the DNA Initiative—Advancing Criminal Justice Through DNA Technology—was announced. It provides increased funding, resources, online training, and assistance to SART members who are core responders as well as to defense lawyers and judges.

Federal legislation in the 21st century bolstered SARTs' efforts to meet victims' needs for culturally specific, victim-centered responses through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386, Division A). The act ensures just and effective punishment of traffickers and protects human trafficking victims. Congress authorized the U.S. Attorney General to make grants to states, Indian tribes, units of local government, and nonprofit, nongovernmental victim services organizations to provide services to these victims.

Additional federal legislation both altered and advanced SART intervention and prevention efforts:

  • The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act of 2000 (Public Law 106–386, Title VI, Section 1601) mandated that any person who is required to register as a sex offender in a state must also notify the institution of higher education in that state in which the person is employed, carries on a vocation, or is a student. This complemented community-based sex offender registries.
  • Justice for All Act of 2004 (H.R. 5107) authorized $155 million in funding over 5 years for victim assistance programs at the federal and state level. This omnibus crime legislation enacted the Debbie Smith Backlog Grant Program, providing $755 million to test the backlog of more than 300,000 rape kits and other crime scene evidence stored in the Nation's crime labs. In addition, more than $500 million was authorized for programs to improve the capacity of crime labs to conduct DNA analysis, reduce backlogs, train examiners, and support sexual assault forensic examiner programs.
  • Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R. 3402), signed by the president on January 5, 2006, included formula funding under the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grants and required that by January 5, 2009—
    • States, territorial governments, or units of local government could no longer require a victim of sexual assault to participate in the criminal justice system or cooperate with law enforcement in order to be provided with a forensic medical exam.
    • States or territories must have certified that their laws, policies, or practices ensure that no law enforcement officer, prosecuting officer, or other government official shall ask or require an adult, youth, or child victim of an alleged sex offense as defined under federal, tribal, state, territorial, or local law to submit to a polygraph examination or other truth-telling device as a condition for proceeding with the investigation of such an offense.
  • Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 108–375) directs the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a comprehensive policy on the prevention of and response to sexual assaults involving members of the Armed Forces and provides a timetable for the military to implement the policy developed.

SARTs report some challenges at the turn of the century. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) revised its privacy rule in 2000 to ensure that individuals' health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information as needed to provide high-quality health care. In some communities, health care facilities interpreted the standard to mean that sexual assault victim advocates could no longer be routinely dispatched to designated forensic medical exam sites.

SART Initiatives

SART Manager Position Created—Cleveland, Ohio (2001)
Cuyahoga County's SART is situated in the largest county in Ohio (approximately 1.4 million residents) and includes the city of Cleveland, which has one of the highest violent crime rates in the Nation. Cuyahoga County attempted to form a SART in 1998 but was unsuccessful. Another attempt to form a coordinated team began in 2001 with limited success. By 2004, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center secured funding for a full-time SART manager for 2 years. With a SART manager at the helm, the Cuyahoga County SART grew to a team of 30—with members from the FBI, emergency medical services, Cleveland Metroparks rangers, and college campuses. With SART leadership in place, the Cuyahoga County SART established 5 SANE programs, trained 2,600 law enforcement professionals, and hosted 2 community forums for more than 300 people.

Innovations Facilitated in Military Response—Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada (2003)
Nellis Air Force Base is located just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip on the edge of the city, an international destination and home to 27,000 military retirees. The Nellis Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program provides round-the-clock crisis response services for nearly 9,000 active duty, reservist, and guard members who live on the base and work with more than 23,000 family members and civilian employees. As a frequent host to international training exercises, dignitaries, and joint-service activities, the Nellis community also opens its doors to an average of 1,500 visitors and temporary duty airmen daily, swelling the potential SAPR target audience to more than 60,000 on a given day.

Nellis Air Force Base began planning and organizing for a coordinated community response to sexual assault in the latter part of 2003. By 2004, this response was in full swing. It includes collaboration with the Rape Crisis Center of Southern Nevada and has increased the competency of its personnel and the quality of its service delivery through military/civilian cross training, intervention, and prevention education programs.

Source: Communications with Suzanne Moore and Kristina Heick, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response, 99th Air Base Wing, Nellis AFB, Nevada, August 2006.

State's Attorney Responds to Overwhelming Sexual Assault Problem—Chicago, Illinois (2003)
In January 2003, the Cook County State's Attorney took the lead in developing a SART in a densely populated county. He charged his office, members of the Chicago Police Department, members of the county's advocacy and medical communities, and the Illinois State Police Crime Lab with the task of forming a team to map solutions to the sexual assault problem. The resulting Cook County SART provides victims with comprehensive and specialized services and also helps identify, arrest, and prosecute offenders.

Source: Communications with Shauna Boliker, Chief, Sex Crimes Division, Cook County SART Team, Illinois.

Project Focuses on Safety for American Indian Women—The Sexual Assault Offenders Demonstration Initiative (2005)
In 2005, the Office on Violence Against Women created the Safety for Indian Women from Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative to enhance the response of tribal and federal agencies in addressing the high rates of sexual assault against American Indian women. The demonstration sites selected were Hannahville Indian Community (Wilson, Michigan), Navajo Nation (Window Rock, Arizona), Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians (Red Lake, Minnesota) and Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Rosebud, South Dakota). The sites are working together to strengthen the tribal justice systems' immediate response to sexual assault, increase advocacy and services to victims, and strengthen the coordination between tribal and federal agencies.