SART TOOLKIT: Resources for Sexual Assault Response Teams
Put the Focus on VictimsPrint Print

Consider Culture and Diversity

Sexual violence knows no boundaries. It does not distinguish between racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds. Victims vary by social class, spiritual beliefs, physical and mental abilities, sexual orientation, gender, age, literacy, and previous victimizations. "No universal formula to meet the needs of all underserved populations exists, because each group is unique."1 However, you can improve your approach by looking carefully at the needs of specific populations.

Ethnic and cultural groups have distinct histories, values, and traditions. The purpose of cross-cultural service delivery is to affirm and preserve victims' traditions and values in an effective, appropriate, and respectful manner. To support the cultural heritage of sexual assault victims, you need to know why some sexual assault victims are underserved.

This section reviews how to provide culturally congruent care and how to serve specific types of victims:

Providing Culturally Congruent Care

An essential part of a victim-centered SART response involves providing competent, culturally congruent care. Culture does not simply refer to ethnicity or race, but rather to integrated patterns of human behavior. Behavior patterns can include thought, communication, language, beliefs, values, practices, customs, courtesies, rituals, roles, and relationships.2

The U.S. population is growing and changing dramatically, with shifts in its cultural diversity that require new approaches in service delivery. Current statistics reflect that3

To provide successful culturally specific care, you must consider how to meet this population's diverse needs and how to reach out to a diverse community.

Meeting Diverse Needs

Meeting victims' needs is far more difficult if their rights and access to services are complicated by geographic isolation, language barriers, cultural intolerance, disability, and/or lack of social support. Culturally sensitive SART responses should include a heightened awareness of how victims' environments shape their healing.

Serving diverse populations within a SART jurisdiction could include meeting specific needs for low-income families, older adults, individuals attending institutions of higher education, persons living on tribal land, individuals living in rural or multijurisdictional regions, immigrants, individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities, individuals living within military installations, national or international tourists, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals.

National Needs Assessment Survey

The National Needs Assessment of Sexual Assault Response Teams surveyed communities about resources that teams require to effectively meet the needs of underserved and unserved communities. Responses included the need for additional staffing, training, and a broad range of multilingual and multicultural tools.

For example, teams serving American Indian victims needed more tribal advocates. Other teams mentioned a need for tools to help them serve nontraditional students on campus and develop strategies for reaching off-campus students. SARTs in rural areas expressed a need to reach victims in remote areas and establish protocols that match existing resources. Responders also indicated that they lack the funding they need to meet victims' basic needs (e.g., food, housing) and to increase accessibility for individuals with disabilities.

Collaborate With Others

As the diversity of our Nation grows, so do the needs of its sexual assault survivors. This presents complex challenges for SARTs, especially when needs exceed available resources.4 However, you can take cost-effective steps to meet the diverse needs of your community. For example, you might seek seed funding for a specific outreach project, expand partnerships with culturally specific organizations, or expand alliances with corporate partners. Examples of agencies you can collaborate with include5

Linking victims with organizations they can trust and with whom they can easily communicate can facilitate their recovery and participation in the criminal justice process.

Bolster Your Efforts

You can bolster your efforts to meet diverse needs by6


Many times, sexual assault victims are unaware of the resources that exist within their communities or may think the services are not relevant to their needs or accessible.7 In other cases, communities do not realize what their citizens need.

Know Your Community

An attorney with the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice moved to Kansas City, Missouri, to become a U.S. Attorney, and human trafficking was not on the district's radar. The attorney met with all of the local law enforcement agencies and explained the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. Law enforcement officials began to realize that they had seen the signs of trafficking without knowing it. After a robust outreach campaign to educate law enforcement and the community, a human trafficking task force was established.

Begin your outreach efforts with an appreciation for the following:8

Develop Your Outreach Plan

Meeting the needs of historically underserved communities requires a plan for setting direction, defining results, leveraging new resources, identifying issues, and developing solutions. In 2001, the Violence Against Women State Planning Committee in Hawaii created a long-range plan for increased outreach and services to underserved populations isolated by culture and language, disability, and sexual orientation.15 The planning committee found that—

To address these issues, the planning committee set two objectives:

Hawaii's plan for increased outreach and services is an example of a culturally sensitive system of care. As you endeavor to build such systems of care, keep in mind the following:

In Summary

To address the range of diversity in communities, you need the skills to18



Cultural Competence Self-Test
Assists physicians in identifying areas in which they might improve the quality of their services to culturally diverse populations.

Cultural Orientation Resource Center: Culture Profiles
Profiles the cultures of various refugee populations. Each profile contains a basic introduction to the people and history of the culture and includes topics such as geography, economy, social structure, gender roles, language and literacy, education, religion, art and song, food and dress, festivities, names, and features of the language.

Culture Handbook
Gives guidance on how to understand the complex ways in which people respond to intimate partner violence. The handbook stresses the importance of reaching out and working collaboratively with diverse communities to address violence.

Gaining Insight, Taking Action: Basic Skills for Serving Victims with Disabilities (Video and Guidebook)
Highlights how to communicate effectively with crime victims, the challenges faced by underserved victim populations, and the relationship between substance abuse and victimization.

National Center on Elder Abuse Listserv
Allows professionals working in fields related to elder abuse to raise questions, discuss issues, and share information and best practices.

National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Chapter 8: Respecting Diversity: Responding to Underserved Victims of Crime
Covers a vast array of cultural differences, considerations, challenges, and culturally relevant strategies.

Planning for Cultural and Linguistic Competence in Systems of Care
Assists organizations in developing policies, structures, and practices that support cultural and linguistic competence.

Revisiting the Critical Elements of Comprehensive Community Initiatives
Focuses on lessons and insights gained by comprehensive community initiatives and describes effective outreach and how to sustain involvement and address cultural issues and the challenges of collaboration.

Sexual Violence in Communities of Color
Highlights issues and distinguishing dynamics that confront African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.

Texas Association Against Sexual Assault: Diversity Resources
Links to a range of resources for diverse populations.

U.S. Census Bureau
Provides links to the latest U.S. Census data on African-American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native populations.

Guidelines and Standards

Center for Linguistic and Cultural Competence in Health Care
Provides cultural guides and resources, national standards for cultural competency, and information on culturally specific programs, organizations, policies, and training tools.

National Standards on Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care
Addresses the needs of racial, ethnic, and linguistic population groups that experience unequal access to health care services.

A Practical Guide for Implementing the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health Care
Assists health care organizations in creating an environment that meets the needs and expectations of a diverse patient/consumer population.

Proposed Indicators for Levels of Achievement of the NASW Standards on Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice
Supports the advancement of practice models that are relevant to a range of needs and services represented by diverse client populations.

Reflections on the CLAS Standards: Best Practices, Innovations and Horizons
Reviews best practices to inform, guide, and facilitate the implementation of CLAS (culturally and linguistically appropriate services) standards and reports on innovative and advanced programs.


Hot Peach Pages
Provides an international inventory of hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centers, and women's organizations. The information is searchable by country and includes resources in more than 75 languages.

International Rape Crisis Hotlines
Provides an international list of abuse and crisis help lines, programs, and Web sites.

Victim Assistance Online
Serves as a reference, resource, and networking center for the international victim assistance community.


Arte Sana
Promotes healing and empowerment through the arts and community education.

Assists advocates and attorneys facing complex legal problems in advocating for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

National Association for Multicultural Education
Brings together individuals and groups interested in multicultural education from all levels of education, different academic disciplines, and diverse educational institutions and occupations.

National Center for Cultural Competence
Increases the capacity of health and mental health programs to design, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service delivery systems.

National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault
Uses a multistrategy approach of leadership development and support for women of color, advocacy and support for organizations by and for communities of color, and technical assistance, training, and advocacy regarding sexual assault in communities of color.

U.S. Census Bureau
Serve as the leading source of data about the nation's people and economy. Its Web site includes a section on population projections.

Serving Victims' Language Needs

According to 2007 Census data, approximately 55 million people older than age 5 in the United States, or 19.7 percent of the population, speak a language other than English at home, a number that has "increased steadily for the last three decades."19 In addition, dialects differ from country to country and community to community, which underscores cultural differences among people speaking the same language.

These demographic changes have important implications for SARTs—teams can no longer assume that victims speak English or that print materials written in English will be accessible to all victims. Today, in nearly every part of the country, SARTs must be able to communicate in one or more languages other than English.

To meet varied language needs, consider the following questions adapted from Linguistic Competence in Primary Health Care Delivery Systems: Implications for Policy Makers:20

In other words, you will need to make an institutional commitment to language accessibility and culturally competent services before you can begin planning and implementing language assistance guidelines. Integrate language services into your guidelines and protocols; don't just see them as a supplemental project or a special services component.

Read on for information about—

Language Provisions

Meaningful language access involves the coordination of many types of resources, services, tools, and technologies. It is critical to understand that language access means providing access not only when victims first seek services (e.g., hotline calls, hospital triage, 911 dispatch, at a primary physician's office), but also throughout their continuum of care. To underscore the importance of providing services, Executive Order 13166 requires federally conducted and assisted programs to take steps to improve access to their services for people with LEP.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Provisions for Persons with Limited English Proficiency

"No person in the United States shall, on ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

The Office of Civil Rights further clarifies Title VI as it relates to persons with limited English proficiency. Specifically, providers should have reasonable steps in place for providing services and information in appropriate languages other than English to ensure that persons with limited English proficiency are effectively informed and can effectively participate in any benefit.

Source: T. Goode, S. Sockalingam, M. Brown, and W. Jones, 2000, Linguistic Competence in Primary Health Care Delivery Systems: Implications for Policy Makers, National Center for Cultural Competence.

Understanding and processing information can be challenging for victims who have LEP. To meet the diverse language needs in your jurisdiction, consider developing or expanding services to include—

In addition, consider collaborating with court systems, immigrant organizations, refugee resettlement programs, and community colleges/universities to help plan for extended language services that meet your jurisdiction's specific language needs.

Public Awareness of Services

Once you decide on the range of language services you can provide, you will need to promote your services.

Translation Services

According to the National Center for Cultural Competence, translation services can be found by contacting translation companies, language banks, and community-based organizations such as community colleges, local hospitals, managed care organizations, refugee resettlement sites, and faith-based entities. They are also found through word of mouth and Internet searches.

Hablamos Juntos offers information on translation basics:

Interpreter Services

If you don't have multilingual members on your team, you have a responsibility to use qualified language interpreters and make certain that interpreters do not breach victim confidentiality. Establishing clear standards and guidelines can positively guide the interpre­tation process. Consider victims' country of origin, acculturation level, and dialect when you arrange interpretation services. You also may want to collaborate with qualified interpreters in your jurisdiction to develop training opportunities related to sexual assault trauma, confidentiality, and cultural concerns.

An interpreter is needed whenever there is an interaction with an individual, family, or group who do not speak English well or who indicate that they will need an interpreter to participate. Providing interpretation services requires advance planning. To prepare your program, agency, or organization for working with individuals and families from diverse language backgrounds, consider the importance of SARTs to victims; the number of LEP persons eligible for or likely to seek services; how often victims come into contact with SART agencies and organizations; and available resources and costs.

When using interpreters, talk directly to the victim, not to the interpreter. Use short, simple statements, ask one question at a time, and speak in plain language. Make sure to plan in more time with the victim because using interpreters can double the time needed for interviews.

When selecting interpreters, consider whether21



Court Interpretation in Protection Order Hearings
Helps determine the need for court interpreters and how they can be accessed.

Model Guides for Policy and Practice in the State Courts
Examines language interpretation problems and responses at several levels—courtroom, local, state, and national—and contains model documents and recommended procedures and programs for trial judges, administrators, program managers, and policymakers.

National Center on State Courts
Links to court interpreter resources, including contact information for state and federal interpreter programs, certification information, and other resources.


Executive Order 13166—Limited English Proficiency Resource Document: Tips and Tools from the Field
Provides tips and tools for law enforcement, 911 call centers, and victim service organizations for increasing access to services for LEP individuals.

Language Assistance Self-Assessment and Planning Tool
Assists organizations in strategic planning efforts for LEP clients.

Language Link
Helps determine a victim's language.
Includes resources and information on meaningful access for LEP people, provides policies and guidelines from the Federal Government, and offers opportunities for technical assistance and help with specific questions.

Modern Language Association
Offers a searchable database that provides language data for the entire Nation and by state, county, and ZIP code.

The Multilingual Access Model: A Model for Outreach and Services in Non-English Speaking Communities
Reviews an innovative language access model that responds to the needs of non-English speaking battered women and their children.

OVC's Foreign Language Publications
Includes links to publications in Spanish, French, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese. English-language versions of each document are also available.

Planning for Cultural and Linguistic Competence in Systems of Care
Assists organizations in developing policies, structures, and practices that support cultural and linguistic competence.


California Standards for Healthcare Interpreters—Ethical Principles, Protocols, and Guidance on Roles & Intervention
Standardizes health care interpreting practices by providing a set of ethical principles, interpreting protocols, and guidance on roles particular to the specialty of health care.

Cross Cultural Health Care Program
Includes many resources to assist SARTs in working with interpreters.

Hablamos Juntos
Improves communication between health care providers and their patients with limited English proficiency by developing affordable models that will help doctors, hospitals, and their staff care for a changing patient population.

A Patient-Centered Guide to Implementing Language Access Services in Healthcare Organizations
Provides practical, ground-level suggestions for how health care organizations and providers can implement language access services.

A Practical Guide for Implementing the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) in Health Care
Assists health care organizations in creating an environment that meets the needs and expectations of a diverse patient/consumer population.


Code of Professional Conduct, National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc.
Encompasses interpreters' roles and responsibilities for educational, legal, and medical settings.

Interpreter Services, Massachusetts
Provides tips on working effectively with interpreters.

Language Line Services
Provides personal interpreter services, over-the-phone interpretations in 170 languages, video interpreting services, document translations, and a language line for individuals with LEP.

Network Omni
Offers over-the-phone interpretation, onsite interpretation, translation and localization services, and consulting services.

Law Enforcement

Bridging the Cultural Divide: Cultural Competence in Public Safety
Provides practical tips for service providers working with telephone interpreting services to overcome barriers of culture and language.

Overcoming Language Barriers: Solutions for Law Enforcement
Highlights tools that law enforcement agencies can use to improve communication with non-English speaking persons.

Serving Victims' Literacy Needs

Literacy is vital to ensuring equal access to justice. The Adult Education and Family Literacy Act defines literacy as an individual's ability to read, write, and speak in English and to compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function in everyday life.22 If victims do any of the following when you are assisting them, they may need literacy-related help:23

The social stigma of rape weighs on many victims' shoulders, making it difficult for them to come forward, disclose, press charges, and get the help they need. Victims with low-literacy skills often struggle with a double stigma—that of sexual assault and illiteracy—that can compound their shame, self-blame, and isolation, making it difficult for them to reach out for help.24

To meet victims at their point of need25

Serving Victims' Spiritual Needs

The lasting scars of spirit and faith are not so easily treated. Many victims question the faith they thought secure, or have no faith on which to rely. Frequently, ministers and their congregations can be a source of solace that no other sector of society can provide.26

The path to spiritual healing from sexual assault is unique for each individual. It may mean victims need to find new definitions and a new understanding of their beliefs within the context of the assault. Yet, in some jurisdictions, representatives of the religious community go to court or prisons to comfort and assist the accused but have not developed programs to assist victims.

The faith community has a unique role in sexual assault victims' lives. The Vermont Victim Services Faith Community Initiative (VS 2000) strongly recommends that victim assistance providers reach out to local faith leaders, invite them to participate in trainings and conferences, and invite them to collaborate so they may effectively serve victims who look to them for comfort and spiritual care.27 Faith-based providers on SARTs can help the team develop and publish policies and protocols that include intervention and prevention initiatives specific to individual's spiritual needs.28 For example, VS 2000 set out to address the lack of specialized training among clergy through a pilot project in Chittenden County, where more than one-fourth of all Vermont residents live. Their initiative included program startup, relationship building, and sustainability for faith-based programs.29

Read on for information about—

Faith-Based Partnerships

When you reach out to faith-based communities, it is helpful to find common ground. For example, how do faith communities already address the needs of sexual assault victims in their congregations? Finding common ground and inviting faith leaders to collaborate on services for survivors of sexual assault provides a mutual avenue of education and training. Faith leaders may have innovative ideas of how to expand services to include a spiritual dimension. Likewise, you may help faith communities plan and design programs that fit within their current religious programming or may help them seek funding to provide additional services to their congregants.

For example, the Yakima Sexual Assault Unit in Yakima, Washington, initiated partnerships with faith-based organizations in its community.30 To create interest in the partnerships, the unit—

At the first meeting, participants identified a need for education and referral resources in the congregations and asked the unit to share its expertise and answer questions at the congregations' facilities. One church invited the unit to host a support group, and several others were willing to advertise community sexual assault services in their bulletins.

Educational Initiatives

Educational initiatives for faith-based communities can include partnerships with institutions of higher education, hospitals, and law enforcement or military chaplaincy programs. Among them are the following examples:

Faith Community Professional Education Initiative

The Denver District Attorney's Office and Denver Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement Board partnered with OVC to help prepare clergy and faith-based counselors to work in crisis situations with crime victims. They teamed up with Denver Seminary to develop and pilot a core curriculum for clergy on victimization issues. The curriculum, Victim Care: Issues for Clergy and Faith-Based Counselors, is appropriate for formal academic coursework or an intensive continuing education course. The initiative disseminated the curriculum to schools of theology throughout the country for use in their existing curriculums.

Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Services

Consider chaplaincy programs through law enforcement, hospitals, or the military as an avenue to expand faith-based initiatives. For example, OVC provided a discretionary grant to the U.S. Community Chaplaincy Program in California, which developed a law enforcement-based curriculum for chaplains responding to violent crimes. OVC's Training and Technical Assistance Center may be able to provide technical assistance to SARTs that want to develop or expand faith-based initiatives.

Interfaith Training

Interfaith initiatives may fall under the umbrella of community ecumenical councils that are formed to develop greater religious unity or cooperation. For example, OVC funded a project in Denver to create a faith-based manual for pastors, priests, rabbis, lay leaders, religious counselors, and military, hospital, and prison chaplains as an elementary guide to understanding the issues confronting victims of crime.

In addition to creating Victims of Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Elder Abuse, Rape, Robbery, Assault, and Violent Death: A Manual for Clergy and Congregations, the project—


Building Victim Assistance Networks With Faith Communities
Includes information on victims' needs from a faith-based perspective, elements of collaboration, lessons learned, issues unique to victim assistance faith-based initiatives, and supplementary materials.

Creating Partnerships with Faith Communities to End Sexual Violence
Explores the ways in which service providers can work with faith communities and includes practical educational and organizational resources for providers who are interested in working within their own faith communities or who want to build secular/faith-based partnerships.

Faith Communities and Sexual Assault—Sexual Assault Coalition Resource Sharing Project Newsletter (Issue 14)
Focuses on ideas for collaboration between faith-based communities and sexual assault and domestic violence programs that can be used to build SART agencies' capacity to collaborate with faith communities. Available to state sexual assault and dual coalitions through the Resource Sharing Project.

Faith Community Professional Education Initiative
Offers a strategic opportunity for graduate theological schools to train representatives of their faith communities in how to support victims of crime. The initiative's Web site includes the postgraduate curriculum Victim Care: Issues for Clergy and Faith-Based Counselors, which covers victimization, trauma, pastoral care, theological and spiritual issues, cultural considerations, the criminal justice process, victims' rights, restorative justice, vicarious trauma, and mandatory reporting for clergy. A companion multimedia presentation breaks the curriculum into shorter segments for classroom use.

Faith Trust Institute
Offers a wide range of services and resources, including training, consultation, and educational materials, to provide faith communities and advocates with the tools and knowledge they need to address religious and cultural issues related to abuse.

Handbook on Justice for Victims (chapter 3)
Discusses critical issues of victim assistance for clergy and spiritual leaders, training for clergy and spiritual leaders in victim assistance, and international examples of victim assistance through religious or spiritual institutions.

New Directions from the Field: Victims' Rights and Services for the 21st Century—Faith Community
Discusses a range of crime victimizations and provides recommendations to facilitate the role of faith communities in helping crime victims.

Task Force for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
Coordinates efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in providing social services.

Serving Adolescent Victims

Adolescents have the highest rates of rape and other sexual assaults of any age group in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice reported annual rates of sexual assault per 1,000 persons (males and females) in 1998 to be 3.5 for ages 12–15, 5 for ages 16–19, 4.6 for ages 20–24, and 1.7 for ages 24–29.31

Significant gender differences exist in adolescent rape and sexual assault cases, with the rate of female victims exceeding that of males. The National Crime Victimization Survey reported 308,569 sexual assaults in females age 12 or older and 21,519 sexual assaults in males age 12 or older in 1998.32 The U.S. Department of Justice reported that more than half of all rape and sexual assault victims in 1998 were females younger than 25 years old.33

Studies have demonstrated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all adolescent sexual assaults are perpetrated by an acquaintance or relative. Older adolescent victims are most commonly victimized during social encounters with assailants (e.g., dates). With younger adolescent victims, the assailant is more likely to be a member of the adolescent's extended family. Adolescents with developmental disabilities, especially those with mild intellectual disabilities, are at particularly high risk for acquaintance and date rape.

Read on for information about—

Defining Adolescent Sexual Assault

According to the Committee on Adolescence, to be able to identify, treat, and manage adolescent victims of sexual assault, it is important to first understand certain definitions of assault:34

Building Collaborations

To address sexual violence among adolescents, consider collaborating with community organizations that work with adolescents. Additionally, consider—


PreventConnect Wiki Project—Curricula for Adolescents and Teens
Lists resources and educational curriculums that focus on teen dating violence and sexual violence.

State Legislators' Handbook for Statutory Rape Issues
Provides information and suggestions to help states develop realistic and enforceable statutory rape laws.

Teen Dating Violence: A Review of Risk Factors and Prevention Efforts
Provides a critical review of the research literature regarding risk factors for both perpetrators and victims of dating violence and examines the research on the effectiveness of prevention and intervention programs.

Teen Dating Violence: Information and Resources
Describes key issues related to teen dating violence and lists resources and activist opportunities for teens.

Underserved Teen Victims Initiative
Provides information on adolescent development, local programs and resources, strategies for education and outreach, teen-specific intervention strategies, and legal issues.

Highlights YOVA, a youth leadership program that educates teens on the dynamics of victimization and provides information on where they can turn for help and support. Through YOVA, youth-adult teams from around the Nation are creating outreach events, materials, and advertising to reach teen victims in their communities.

Serving Victims on Campus

The percentage of completed or attempted rapes among women in institutions of higher education may be between 20 and 25 percent over a college career. According to a 1997 survey, 9 in 10 victims of rape and sexual assault in college knew their offender, and almost 12.8 percent of completed rapes, 35 percent of attempted rapes, and 22.9 percent of threatened rapes happened during a date.35

Factors such as campus attitudes toward sexual assault, student victims' lack of understanding about how to report crimes, and victims' fears of retaliation and about telling their parents point to the need for campuses to coordinate efforts and mobilize resources to help students who are sexually assaulted receive the essential services they need.36 For example, Montclair State University in New Jersey found that campus victims often reported sexual assaults in nontraditional ways, such as telling peer leaders or requesting emergency contraception or screening for sexually transmitted infections. To increase access to campus services, the university provides sexual assault training to individuals considered as victims' first contacts, such as student leaders and staff from student affairs offices. Now, most students who report sexual assault do so with assistance from a trained first contact.37

Although sexual assault primarily affects young women, they are not the only targets. Men, individuals with disabilities, members of cultural and religious minority groups, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals also experience sexual assault on campus and frequently do not report their victimization. In response, institutions of higher education and victim service professionals that serve campus communities need to ensure that their outreach, services, and policies reflect the composition of their campus community and are responsive to the needs of a wide range of victims.

Read on for information about—

Policy and Protocol Development

According to California's Campus Blueprint to Address Sexual Assault, "a campus sexual assault policy establishes the institution's intent to proactively address sexual assault complaints, respond to the needs of victims (including students, faculty, and staff), and hold perpetrators (including students, faculty, and staff) accountable."38 For example, institutions of higher education can create policies to—

The response protocols for campuses need to include multidisciplinary service providers such as39

The Right Tool

Protocol Checklist for Responding to Sexual Assault Helps university staff ensure comprehensive and consistent responses to sexual violence; developed by Rutgers State University.

Enhance Your Response to Sexual Violence on Campus
  • Support the development, implementation, and maintenance of a campus SART or participate on the local SART.40
  • Assign one individual or department to coordinate, implement, and evaluate all educational efforts, victim response services, long-term support services, and revisions to policies and adjudication procedures.
  • Conduct needs assessments to identify specific gaps in the prevention and intervention of sexual violence.
  • Develop partnerships among campus and community law enforcement, medical and forensic services, and nongovernmental victim service providers and designate staff to regularly meet these community-based providers to facilitate a collaborative multidisciplinary response.
  • Evaluate the safety and security of the campus, considering environmental factors such as physical and capital improvements needed to address safety (e.g., lighting, emergency callboxes, landscape maintenance, building locks, equipment for law enforcement and security on campus).41
  • Identify sustainable funding to support sexual assault education, prevention, and response services on campus.
  • Designate funds to support ongoing campus and offsite training and continuing education related to sexual assault response and prevention.
  • Create a directory of service providers and a referral system to help victims access experts who can help them.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities through memorandums of understanding (MOUs) among campuses, local law enforcement, and other providers in the community.
  • Reach out to students who live off campus (e.g., distribute educational material at places they frequent such as businesses, places of worship, and community centers).
  • Provide opportunities for students to mobilize and to create peer-initiated and supported initiatives.
  • Infuse college curriculums with information about sexual violence.

Victim Services

When designing victim services and advocacy programs, campuses must consider the needs of specific victims, with particular emphasis on the demographic makeup of the school. Most important, the services must be accessible to and appropriate for the many populations that make up the campus community (e.g., students, faculty and staff, men, individuals with disabilities, cultural and religious minorities, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender individuals, commuting students, students who are parents, older students). In addition, response services should be available through both campus- and community-based organizations.

Serving Victims of Campus Crime, a National Criminal Justice Association project, identified several critical elements needed for a comprehensive victim services program on college and university campuses, including the following:42

Judicial Protocols, Policies, and Training

According to the California Campus Sexual Assault Task Force43

Campus judicial systems operate independently from state and federal criminal justice systems. Typically, their sanctions apply a lesser burden of proof than required by either state or federal criminal systems, and these sanctions do not restrict basic liberties. As a result, a campus may decide to pursue an allegation of sexual assault that the criminal justice system might dismiss.

Individual victims may choose not to report to municipal or campus law enforcement/security and instead pursue a remedy only through the campus judicial system. For these reasons, a campus judicial system's response to a sexual assault complaint may be a victim's only avenue for seeking justice. Therefore, campuses must actively work to ensure that their judicial systems are fair, unbiased, and responsive to the needs and rights of both victims and those accused of sexual assault.

Consider taking the following actions:

New Jersey's Campus Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights Act

According to New Jersey's Campus Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights (New Jersey Statutes Title 18A: 61E-2, 1994), every institution of higher education in the state must uphold the following sexual assault victims' rights, which are associated with assaults that occur on or off campus:

  • To have any allegations of sexual assault treated seriously.
  • To be treated with dignity.
  • To be free from any suggestion that the victims are responsible.
  • To be notified of existing campus- and community-based medical, counseling, mental health, and student services for victims, whether or not the crime is formally reported to the campus or civil authorities.
  • To have access to campus counseling.
  • To be informed of and assisted in exercising any rights to confidential or anonymous testing for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV, and pregnancy; and any rights that may be provided by law to compel and disclose if the accused have communicable diseases.
  • To be afforded the same access to legal assistance as the accused.
  • To be afforded the same opportunity to have others present during any campus disciplinary proceedings.
  • To be notified of the outcome of the sexual assault disciplinary proceeding against the accused.
  • To receive cooperation and assistance from campus personnel in notifying the proper authorities.
  • To receive prompt, victim-sensitive cooperation from campus personnel in securing and maintaining evidence, including a medical forensic examination when it is necessary to preserve evidence of the assault.

Furthermore, sexual assault victims are to be free from any pressure from campus personnel to report sexual assaults if they do not want to do so or free from pressure to report crimes as lesser offenses. The Act also requires campus personnel to take reasonable and necessary actions to prevent alleged assailants from have any further unwanted contact with victims and to be notified of the options for and provided assistance in changing academic and living situations if such changes are reasonably available.

Campus and Community Collaboration

Campuses need not work alone when developing and delivering sexual assault services. They can partner with representatives from local SART agencies, campus ministries and local faith-based groups, campus ombudspersons, faculty and students, and representatives of diverse cultural and religious groups on campus.48  

Colleges and universities may choose to49

Communication at a national level among colleges and universities can reinforce efforts to develop community and campus intervention and prevention programs. The following listservs/forums can connect institutions of higher education with like-minded service providers nationally:

Tips for Promoting Public Awareness on Campus

The tips listed here can help schools increase their campus community's awareness of sexual assault at and around the school:50

  • Publicize campus guidelines through student handbooks, faculty and staff handbooks, campus Web sites, and orientation materials. Include information about students' rights and services (including contact information) both on campus and in the community.
  • Provide faculty and staff with training and policies that address all campus members as potential victims or perpetrators.
  • Educate students, faculty, and staff about the problem of sexual assault and dating violence. Provide adequate training on victims' legal rights and available resources.
  • Develop specialized training for target groups (e.g., new students, fraternities and sororities, athletes).
  • Infuse curriculums with information on sexual violence and victimization.
  • Educate the campus community on expected standards of behavior, the definition of consent, and myths about sexual assault.51
  • Educate the campus community about the targeting behaviors that sex offenders exhibit prior to committing a sexual assault and the role alcohol plays in the crime.
  • Create programming on how bystanders can intervene in and communities can prevent sexual assault.
  • Provide all incoming students with mandatory prevention and education programs that include campus- and community-based victim advocacy agencies.52
  • Train students to be sexual assault peer educators.


Documents and Materials

Acquaintance Rape of College Students
Describes acquaintance rape among college students, addressing its scope, its causes and contributing factors, analysis methods, tested responses, and measures for assessing response effectiveness. With this information, police and public safety officers can more effectively prevent the problem.

Averting the Campus Date Rape Drug Crisis: Seven Solutions for Colleges, Law Enforcement and Medical Professionals
Helps local police departments standardize guidelines for aiding victims and better identifying drug-facilitated sexual assault; provides model guidelines for medical personnel to follow; and describes community task forces, prevention education training modules for students, and police training and data collection.

California Campus Blueprint to Address Sexual Assault
Presents legislative recommendations regarding changes that should be made in existing laws and enactment of new laws to enhance the sexual assault-related policies and practices of colleges and universities throughout the state. The blueprint can provide other states with a comprehensive overview of specific action steps that can be taken to improve individual campus responses to sexual assault.

Campus Sexual Assault: How America's Institutions of Higher Education Respond
Examines how institutions of higher education are responding to the threat of sexual assaults on campus in the areas of prevention, victim support services, reporting policies, protocols, barriers, facilitators, adjudication procedures, and sanctions.

Campus Sexual Assault Resource and Information Sharing Tool
Compiles resources and tools created by campus programs in Washington State to promote awareness of and education about sexual assault on campus.

Federal Campus Crime Reporting 101
Highlights the history of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and
Campus Crime Statistics Act, providing definitions of common terms and answering frequently asked questions.

The Handbook for Campus Crime Reporting
Offers procedures, examples, and references for higher education institutions to follow in meeting the requirements of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

Hate Crimes on Campus: The Problem and Efforts To Confront It
Examines aspects of bias, prejudice, and hate crimes on college and university campuses. The document also explains that sexual assault can be prosecuted as a hate crime if gender is included in applicable hate crime laws and evidence can be obtained demonstrating that the assault was motivated, in whole or in part, by bias against victims because of their gender.

The Legacy of the Prompt Complaint Requirement, Corroboration Requirement, and Cautionary Instructions on Campus Sexual Assault
Examines how societal views and myths about rape have a negative impact on the legal options available to rape victims, including forcing the victim to report within a short amount of time and requiring corroboration of verbal reports.

Male Survivors of Sexual Assault
Offers information and resources to support male survivors of sexual assault on campus.

National Summit on Campus Public Safety
Documents recommendations from the 2004 National Summit on Campus Public Safety, including priority concerns, issues, and needs that challenge security on colleges and university campuses. The document also identifies successes in campus security and how they may be replicated.

National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Chapter 22, Section 4: Campus Crime and Victimization
Describes federal laws that address campus crime, civil remedies to combat crime on college campuses, barriers to the reporting of campus crimes and recommendations to increase reporting, and critical elements in developing a comprehensive victim services program for campuses.

Organizing College Campuses Against Dating Abuse
Assists staff in higher education and domestic violence programs who are interested in developing a comprehensive response to dating abuse as it affects students on college campuses.

Preventing Alcohol-Related Problems on Campus: Acquaintance Rape
Includes recommendations for implementing, improving, and expanding violence prevention programs at institutions of higher education, with an emphasis on preventing acquaintance rape.

Recommended Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexual Assault Response and Prevention on Campus
Provides college and university campus personnel with recommendations and strategies for developing multidisciplinary sexual assault response policies and protocols.

Sexual Assault on Campus: What Colleges and Universities Are Doing About It
Reviews sexual assault policy on the Nation's campuses, including highlights of innovative and promising practices. The report is based on findings from a congressionally mandated study, Campus Sexual Assault: How America's Institutions of Higher Education Respond.

The Sexual Victimization of College Women
Analyzes the sexual victimization of college women by examining two national-level surveys that used two different survey methods: the National College Women Sexual Victimization Study and the National Crime Victimization Survey.

Sexual Violence and Alcohol and Other Drug Use on Campus
Briefly analyzes perpetrator characteristics, misinterpretation of verbal and nonverbal cues, and alcohol use and other situational risk factors.

Toolkit to End Violence Against Women, Chapter 7: Promoting Safety and Nonviolence on College and University Campuses
Outlines recommendations that institutions of higher education, college administrators and staff, student organizations, on-campus and off-campus law enforcement agencies and victim service providers, adjudication board members, victim advocates, and related organizations can use to promote nonviolence on their campuses.


California Coalition Against Sexual Assault
Provides national training and technical assistance for the Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus Program, funded through the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.

National Center for Higher Education Risk Management
Emphasizes best practices for student health and safety, specializing in advancing strategies for changing campus culture and problem solving to address the wellness issues that face colleges and universities.

Security on Campus, Inc.
Helps prevent violence, substance abuse, and other crimes on college and university campuses and assist the victims of these crimes. The organization's Web site has a range of resources and publications, including information about the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act and other campus security issues.

Web Sites

Campus Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights
Describes the law that requires all colleges and universities participating in federal student aid programs to afford sexual assault victims certain basic rights. The law also requires schools to notify victims of their option to report their assault to the proper law enforcement authorities.

Clery Act Compliance Information
Provides the text for the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)), which requires U.S. colleges and universities to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. Also provides crime definitions and answers to frequently asked questions.

Transgender Sexual Violence Project
Includes resources on sexual assault against or by transgender people, including a sexual assault resource sheet, Web sites, articles, books, and listservs.

Serving Victims With Disabilities

The statistics regarding sexual assault against people with disabilities are alarming. For example—

Unfortunately, with the high statistical rate of sexual assault for individuals with disabilities, SARTs may not have the resources they need to respond effectively to victims' physical, sensory, and mental needs. To help bolster outreach, this section provides materials and links to assist you in developing expanded alliances, evaluating agency accessibility, and promoting culturally relevant responses for individuals with disabilities.

Read on for information about—

People-First Language

When we make disabilities the most important thing about victims, we devalue and disrespect them. When referring to victims with disabilities, use people-first language (e.g., "she is a woman with a visual disability" rather than "she is a blind woman"). People-first language puts the person before the disability and uses respectful language that describes what a person has, not who a person is.

Source: Kathy Snow, People-First Language, 2010.

Defining Disability

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (Public Law 101-336) describes a person with a disability as a person who—

ADA's regulation does not specify all the diseases or conditions that are covered as disabilities. It is simply impossible to identify every disability that could potentially be covered under the regulation. For this toolkit, the phrase "individuals with disabilities" refers to all individuals covered under the ADA definition. It is important to state from the outset, however, that some individuals do not consider themselves to be individuals with disabilities. For example, individuals who are deaf may identify themselves as part of a Deaf culture that embodies a community with its own language and values, rather than as part of a population with a disability. (The lowercase [deaf] is generally used when referring to the physical condition of not hearing, and the uppercase [Deaf] is used when referring to a particular group of deaf people who share a common language and culture, such as individuals who use American Sign Language.55

Disability transcends age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, religion, and gender. Not only are there differences in the type and severity of disabilities, there also are differences in disabilities based on the age of onset and how sexual assault victims live with their disabilities.

Within this toolkit, the term "disability" includes the following:

Handicap or Disability?

Handicap is not a synonym for disability. Disability refers to a physical, sensory, or mental limitation that interferes with a person's ability to move, see, hear, or learn. Handicap refers to a condition or barrier imposed by the environment, society, or oneself. As such, physical and programmatic barriers that interfere with a person's access to people and services constitute a handicap to a person with a disability.

Source: Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy, Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, IndependenceFirst, 2004, Accessibility Guide for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Service Providers, 4.

Removing Barriers

SARTs can provide victim-centered responses by evaluating the accessibility barriers that victims with disabilities might experience when seeking services. For example, victims with mental illness, intellectual or developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury, or neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or stroke could be easily distracted by bright lights and loud noises. In this respect, you may want to evaluate the lighting and noise level at your agency. It also may be helpful to refrain from wearing uniforms with ornamental designs and jewelry, which can be especially distracting to individuals with cognitive disabilities.

In addition, you can take steps to enhance physical accommodations to improve accessibility:

Responding to Victims With Disabilities

Most people will face some type of disability at some point in their lives. The disability could be temporary, such as a broken leg; connected to age, such as hearing or vision loss; the result of a disease, such as cancer or heart disease; the result of an accident, such as a spinal cord injury or amputation; or may be a late-onset condition or the result of life circumstances, such as schizophrenia, depression, or posttraumatic stress disorder.57 Therefore, it is important to provide programs and services that are not only barrier free, but also adapted to fulfill the needs of all people equally.

How To Interact With Victims With Disabilities

First Response to Victims of Crime is a practical DVD with a companion guidebook designed for law enforcement responding to victims with disabilities such as Alzheimer's disease, mental illness, or intellectual disabilities, as well as victims who are blind or visually impaired or deaf or hard-of-hearing. The DVD also addresses older victims, child victims, immigrants, and all other victims of crime. It offers basic guidelines and tips on how best to approach and interact with victims who have disabilities, such as the following:

  • Avoid expressing pity with phrases such as "suffering from Alzheimer's disease" and "a victim of mental illness."
  • Do not express admiration for the abilities or accomplishments of victims in light of their disability.
  • Be mindful of the underlying painful message communicated to victims by comments such as "I can't believe they did this to someone like you," "She's disabled and he raped her anyway" or "To steal from a blind man. That's got to be the lowest." The message these phrases send is that one considers people who have a disability as less than complete human beings.

Taking Cues From Victims

Look for cues from victims and do not hesitate to ask how you and other responders can best assist them. According to the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations, service providers should gain a basic understanding of the concerns of victims with disabilities. For example, they may be reluctant to report crimes or consent to exams for fear of losing their independence. Others may try to disguise or hide their disabilities in efforts to fit in with the mainstream population. And some may want to talk about their perceptions of how their disabilities might have made them vulnerable to the attack.58

Compound or Leading Questions

Frame your questions carefully:

Sensory Disabilities and Communication

When assisting victims with sensory disabilities, be aware of the equipment and resources that victims are comfortable using and understand the basics of communicating with these devices. This equipment may include TTY machines, word boards, speech synthesizers, and anatomically correct dolls; resources may include interpreters.

Be aware that victims with sensory disabilities may prefer communicating through an intermediary who is familiar with their specific patterns of speech. For example, individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may not understand sign language or read lips, and not all blind persons can read Braille. You can obtain technical assistance through—

Service Appointments

It may take longer to provide services to victims with disabilities. Schedule extra time and avoid rushing through exams, interviews, and appointments. Rushing through such procedures may not only distress victims, but may also lead to missed evidence and information.

OVC offers the DVD Serving Crime Victims With Disabilities, which includes first-person accounts of how crime affects people with disabilities and includes information on crime victims' rights and resources.

Friends, Family, and Caregivers

Victims with disabilities may have relationships with their assailants—the assailants may be caretakers, family members, or friends—and these cases often come with high rates of repeat victimization. Therefore, it is important that SARTs respect victims' wishes to have or not to have caretakers, family members, or friends present during appointments, interviews, and exams. Additionally, although family, caretakers, and friends may be accustomed to speaking on behalf of individuals with disabilities, it is critical that they not influence the victims' statements during interviews. Ideally, if victims need assistance (e.g., from language interpreters or mental health professionals), those providing aid should not already have relationships with the victims.


Documents and Materials

Abuse and Women with Disabilities
Highlights the prevalence of violence against women with disabilities, examines abuse interventions, offers a critique of studies, and includes recommendations for research and practice.

Access for All: A Resource Manual for Meeting the Needs of One-Stop Customers with Disabilities
Includes accessibility checklists and ideas, transportation options for individuals with disabilities, fact sheets on a range of disabilities, screening tools, and a resource directory.

Communicating with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Victims: Guidelines for Shelters, Other Service Agencies
Provides guidelines and resources for communicating with deaf and hard-of-hearing clients.

Communicating with People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: ADA Guide for Law Enforcement Officers
Provides basic information for law enforcement officers about ADA requirements for communicating with people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Confronting the Sexual Abuse of Women with Disabilities
Covers the origins of our knowledge concerning the sexual abuse of women with disabilities, discusses data on women with disabilities and the men who abuse them, and explores the advocacy efforts of women with disabilities and their allies.

Defining Programmatic Access to Healthcare for People with Disabilities
Describes methods of incorporating accessible services into health care delivery.

Equal Access: Universal Design of Your Project
Provides a checklist for making projects welcoming, accessible, and usable.

First Response to Victims of Crime
Offers guidance to police officers on how to approach and interact with victims, including those who have Alzheimer's disease, mental illness, or intellectual disabilities or who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard-of-hearing.

Impact: Feature Issue on Violence Against Women with Developmental or Other Disabilities
Offers strategies and ideas for bringing together disability service providers, victim service providers, law enforcement officers, criminal justice system professionals, policymakers, researchers, and women with disabilities.

Making Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Services Accessible
Outlines considerations in operating victim service programs that are accessible to and appropriately serve women with intellectual disabilities and other developmental disabilities.

Model Policy for Law Enforcement on Communicating With People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Serves as a model for law enforcement agencies that need to adopt a policy on effective communication with people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations
Includes recommendations on how health care providers, law enforcement officers, advocates, and others can enhance their responses to sexual assault victims with disabilities.

People with Mental Retardation & Sexual Abuse
Provides an overview of the extent of sexual abuse among people with intellectual disabilities and includes information about the physical, behavioral, and circumstantial signs that point to abuse.

Safety Planning: A Guide for Individuals With Physical Disabilities
Helps adults with physical disabilities who have been or may be abused by an intimate partner, spouse, adult child or other family member, personal assistant, or caregiver.

Serving Crime Victims with Disabilities (DVD)
Provides contact information for select national disability service and advocacy organizations, many of which have local chapters or affiliates.

Serving Women with Developmental Disabilities: Strategies for the Justice System
Explores issues facing police, prosecutors, judges, advocates, and other members of the criminal justice system and provides suggestions for how they can better serve women with developmental disabilities.

Ten Commandments of Etiquette for Communicating with People with Disabilities
Includes tips on how to communicate with people with disabilities.

Tips for First Responders (2d Edition)
Offers tips on how to assist older individuals and people with disabilities, including those who use service animals or who have mobility impairments, autism, cognitive disabilities, sensory disabilities, chemical sensitivities, or mental illness. Although the tips are designed for a range of emergencies, they can be adapted for sexual assault-specific services.

Understanding Disabilities in American Indian & Alaska Native Communities
Provides information about disabilities, Indian tribes, and resources; suggestions for improving services, providing protections, and tapping resources in local tribal communities; and contact information for organizations that could become SART allies.

Understanding the Needs of the Victims of Sexual Assault in the Deaf Community
Examines the perceptions of deaf and hearing service providers who assist deaf victims of sexual assault; help-seeking patterns in the deaf community; the needs of deaf individuals who have been sexually assaulted; and service gaps affecting sexual assault victims who are deaf.

Victims with Disabilities: The Forensic Interview—Techniques for Interviewing Victims with Communication and/or Cognitive Disabilities (DVD, Discussion Guide)
Provides guidelines for law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates, forensic interviewers, and others for interviewing adults and children with communication and/or cognitive disabilities.

Violence and People with Disabilities—A Review of the Literature
Reviews the literature pertaining to people with disabilities and violence and analyzes how violence against people with disabilities is defined, the incidence of violence, issues relating to disclosure, and responses to violence and prevention issues.

Working with Victims of Crime with Disabilities
Identifies the distinctive needs of crime victims with disabilities and offers recommendations for how to serve such victims; identifies issues, service gaps, and barriers to access; recommends needed changes; and spotlights successful programs and promising practices that reach and serve crime victims with disabling conditions.


Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services
Assists deaf and deaf-blind victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Its services include a 24-hour crisis hotline, educational programs, and advocacy for deaf and deaf-blind victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.

The Arc
Advocates for the rights and full participation of all children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its members and affiliated chapters improve systems, inspire communities, and influence public policy.

Brain Injury Association of America
Serves individuals, families, and professionals who are touched by traumatic brain injury. The association's Web site has extensive resource listings, information, and referral services and links to state office affiliates.

Disability, Abuse & Personal Rights Project
Offers online training, education, and resources.

Disability Rights International
Documents conditions, publishes reports on human rights enforcement, and promotes international oversight of the rights of people with mental disabilities.

National Alliance on Mental Illness
Improves the lives of people living with serious mental illness and their families. Alliance chapters in every state are devoted to advocacy, research, support, and education.

National Association of the Deaf
Promotes, protects, and preserves the rights and quality of life of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.

National Braille Press
Offers Braille books, magazines, and customized embossing services.

Safe Place—Disability Services ASAP
Offers training and education to help increase awareness about and prevent sexual and domestic violence and abuse of individuals with disabilities.

Web Sites

Accessing Safety Glossary
Describes commonly used disability and victimization terms.

Accessing Safety Initiative
Provides information on understanding disability, understanding the Deaf culture, addressing accessibility, and creating environments, policies, and practices that better serve and welcome women with disabilities and deaf women.

Americans with Disabilities Act
Offers information and technical assistance on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

CANdo—The Abuse and Disability Outreach Forum
Unites service professionals who are concerned about the abuse of children and adults with disabilities.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Index
Provides a comprehensive index for information on various health issues, including autism, cerebral palsy, deafness, Down's syndrome, intellectual disabilities, and traumatic brain injury.

Directory of Crime Victim Services
Helps service providers and individuals locate nonemergency crime victim service agencies in the United States and abroad.

International Coalition on Abuse and Disability (Listserv)
Includes researchers, clinicians, people with disabilities, parents, and others interested in abuse and disability issues.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service (Special Populations: Disabled)
Includes a question-and-answer section on crime victims with disabilities and lists useful publications.


ADA Technical Assistance Program
Develops and disseminates publications, provides training at meetings nationwide, and conducts outreach to broad and targeted audiences about the Americans with Disability Act.

Serving Trafficking Victims

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery in which traffickers recruit, harbor, and transport individuals for commercial sex acts. Criminal penalties against traffickers are enacted only if the sex acts are induced by force, fraud, or coercion (defined as severe trafficking).61

Statistics show that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked internationally every year for sexual exploitation or forced labor. Sex traffickers lure victims from communities and countries with high rates of poverty and violence. The traffickers trick victims into believing they can help them obtain a better life. Instead, traffickers imprison, rape, beat, starve, and force victims into prostitution and house them in substandard living conditions.62

Each year, 14,500 to 17,500 human trafficking victims end up in slavery in cities and rural areas throughout the United States.63 These staggering figures reflect a fundamental need for SARTs to expand alliances to meet victims' multicultural needs and collaborate on local, federal, state, and international levels.

Read on for information about—

Consent of Victims

One of the key issues in responding to trafficking has been whether victims consent to go with the traffickers.

According to the United Nations' Trafficking in Persons Protocol, consent of the victim is irrelevant when a victim's exercise of free will is limited through force, deception, or the abuse of power. The protocol respects the ability of adults to make their own decisions about their lives, specifically regarding work and migration. However, the protocol excludes a consent-based defense in cases in which the use of improper means of obtaining consent is established.

Source: United Nations, 2006, Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons, New York, NY: United Nations, p. xv.

Recognizing Trafficking Victims' Rights

Victims of sex trafficking are entitled to emergency shelter and food, emergency medical assistance, translation services, counseling, legal assistance, and temporary residence visas, but they must go through an evaluation and application process to determine if their case is a severe form of sex trafficking.64

Identifying Sex Trafficking Victims

Trafficked persons may not speak English, may not fully understand the culture or legal system of the United States, and usually lack information about organizations that can assist them. Given the violence, coercion, and schemes used to lure victims, SARTs must make a commitment to search out victims. For example, traffickers frequently tell victims that they will receive cruel and harsh treatment if they go to law enforcement or immigration officials. Additionally, family loyalty, cultural practices, or political oppression in their home countries can prevent victims from seeking relief. To date, several cases of trafficking have been uncovered after victims escaped and came to the police, but most victims will not be able to escape or seek assistance.65

Several general indicators can help you identify trafficking victims. Do the victims you are serving—

Screening Questions

As the agency responsible for helping trafficking victims receive benefits and services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed the Rescue and Restore Campaign to help identify and assist trafficking victims. When you are trying to identify whether a victim you are serving is a victim of trafficking, consider asking the following screening questions developed by the campaign:

  • Have you or your family been threatened?
  • Is anyone forcing you to do anything that you do not want to do?
  • What type of work do you do? What are your working conditions like? Are you being paid?
  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please? Are there locks on your doors/windows so you cannot get out? Do you have to ask permission to eat/sleep/go to the bathroom? Have you ever been deprived of food, water, sleep, or medical care?
  • Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?

Responding to Trafficking

Your response to trafficked victims may differ from the way you typically respond to victims of sexual assault. For example, trafficked victims may be arrested before they are identified as victims. Their level of danger may be extraordinarily high because most traffickers are part of an organized criminal enterprise—and offenders have much to lose. Human trafficking is closely linked to other criminal activities such as extortion, racketeering, money laundering, bribery, drug use, gambling, conspiracy, document forgery, and visa, mail, and wire fraud. The consequences of trafficking in these situations have severe political, economic, criminal, and health implications for victims.66

Consider the following recommendations,67 which may help you to identify resource or service gaps in your response to sex trafficking victims. Although the information is not exhaustive, it can be used as a starting point for developing guidelines that will help you coordinate victims' safety and services while also meeting criminal justice objectives.

The Right Tool

In This Toolkit:


Documents and Materials

Anti-Human Trafficking Directory of Legal and Social Service Providers
Lists U.S. immigration service providers by state.

Combating Trafficking in Persons: A Directory of Organisations
Lists worldwide service providers by country; also provides a snapshot of trafficking situations in each country described.

The Crime of Human Trafficking: A Law Enforcement Guide to Identification and Investigation
Outlines effective responses to human trafficking, including advice for building a case, conducting successful interviews, and working with task forces. The guidebook (accompanied by a pocket card and trainer’s questions) also addresses victim safety issues and types of victim assistance and lists technical assistance resources.

Digital Dangers: Information & Communication Technologies and Trafficking in Women
Explores how the Internet and other information and communication technologies are connected to human trafficking.

Handbook on Direct Assistance for Victims of Trafficking
Provides guidance on service delivery options from victims' initial contacts to their social reintegration. Chapters include security and personal safety, screening of trafficking victims, referrals and reintegration assistance, shelter guidelines, health care, and cooperation with law enforcement agencies.

The Health Risks and Consequences of Trafficking in Women and Adolescents
Discusses the findings of a 2-year multicountry study on women's health and trafficking and includes interviews with victims, health care providers, community-based service providers, law enforcement officials, and policymakers.

Hiding in Plain Sight: A Practical Guide to Identifying Victims of Trafficking in the U.S.
Helps readers identify victims of sexual trafficking, addresses reporting procedures, and describes the services available to victims of trafficking.

Human Rights and Trafficking in Persons—A Handbook
Describes how to develop strategies to combat trafficking from the human rights perspective and includes trafficking resource tools.

Identification and Legal Advocacy for Trafficking Victims (2d Edition)
Focuses on the T visa, which provides immigration relief to foreign nationals trafficked into the United States.

Law Enforcement Manual for Fighting Against Trafficking in Human Beings
Discusses law enforcement's best practices in countering human trafficking.

Law Enforcement Pocket Card
Helps law enforcement officers identify trafficking victims.

Law Enforcement Toolkit on Trafficking in Persons
Describes legal frameworks, the role of different agencies in combating trafficking, and effective strategies for investigation and prosecution.

Practical Guide for Assisting Trafficked Women
Discusses the everyday aspects of anti-trafficking work among practitioners and promotes understanding of the human rights framework. Two chapters are available online only: Chapter 1: Assistance to Trafficked Women and Chapter 2: Criminal Legal Action.

Resource Guide for State Legislators: Model Provisions for State Anti-Trafficking Laws
Presents a series of model legislative provisions that state legislators can use to create either a comprehensive state anti-trafficking law or begin with one or more of the recommended legislative initiatives.

Sex Trafficking Fact Sheet
Includes an overview of what victims of sex trafficking face, types of sex trafficking, and available federal assistance for victims.

Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons
Increases awareness and helps policymakers, criminal justice systems, law enforcement agencies, and nongovernmental organizations understand and respond effectively to trafficking in persons. Chapters include information on international frameworks with specific information for criminal justice personnel and victim service providers.

Trafficking in Persons—A Guide for Non-Governmental Organizations
Outlines frequently asked questions and answers about federal trafficking laws, victims' rights, and services.

Organizations and Programs

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women—Australia
Works nationally and internationally to oppose sexual exploitation.

Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking
Assists people trafficked for forced labor and slavery-like practices and works toward ending human rights violations. Programs cover social and legal services, training, and advocacy.

Global Programme against Trafficking in Human Beings
Assists United Nations' member states in combating the growing involvement of organized crime groups in what amounts to a new slave trade.

International Rescue Committee
Leads globally in emergency relief, rehabilitation, protection of human rights, post-conflict development, resettlement services, and advocacy for those uprooted or affected by violent conflict and oppression.

Nongovernmental Agencies Providing Services to Human Trafficking Victims

OVC-Funded Grantee Programs To Help Victims of Trafficking
Lists organizations that received OVC funding to provide services to victims of human trafficking.

Vital Voices
Trains and mentors emerging women leaders throughout the world. Its Web site includes a page that discusses human trafficking and human rights.

Web Sites

Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking
Offers fact sheets, resources, and toolkits beneficial for health care providers, social service providers, and law enforcement officers.

Human Trafficking: Information and Resources for Emergency Healthcare Providers
Defines trafficking and provides information on trafficker identities, statistics, and standards of medical documentation.

Legal Momentum: Immigrant Women Program
Provides articles, booklets, checklists, shelter information, Violence Against Women Act regulations, and information about legal and health care responses to immigration issues.

The Mindset of a Human Trafficking Victim
Offers recommendations for responding to trafficking victims and describes barriers law enforcement officers may face when encountering victims.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service: Trafficking in Persons
Links to publications, statistics, legislation, training opportunities, and other resources on sex trafficking.

Office for Victims of Crime: Human Trafficking
Lists governmental, nongovernmental, and international resources.

Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State
Provides tools to combat trafficking in persons, both worldwide and domestically, including fact sheets, links to related sites, and ways to identify and help victims.

Screening Tool for Victims of Human Trafficking
Contains questions law enforcement officers should consider asking potential victims of human trafficking to confirm whether they are actually victims. The questions and answers can later be used as testimonial evidence.

Trafficking in the United States
Provides demographics related to and statistics on trafficking in the United States.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: Human Trafficking
Offers information, reports, and statistics on trafficking and provides a toolkit to help combat trafficking.

VAWnet: Human Trafficking
Includes links; documents on the social, economic, cultural, and political factors that intersect with sex trafficking; fact sheets, some of which highlight tactics used by traffickers; and policy and practice guides and toolkits.


National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline
Helps human trafficking victims escape. Hotline calls are fielded 24/7 by bilingual English and Spanish speaking crisis counselors. Professional interpretation is available for other languages. The center also responds to e-mails in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Polish. The hotline number is 888–373–7888.

Serving Migrant Communities

Much of the information in this section was adapted, with permission, from Reaching Migrant Farm Workers: A Technical Assistance Bulletin for Sexual Violence Advocates and Counselors, 4(1), Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Spring 2007.

Read on for information about—


According to the National Agricultural Workers Survey,68 75 percent of migrant and seasonal farm workers were born in Mexico, 23 percent in the United States, 2 percent in Central America, and 1 percent in other countries. According to the same survey, migrant and seasonal farm workers are on average 31 years old and have lived in the United States for 10 years. Eighty percent are male. More than 75 percent of migrant and seasonal farm workers earned less than $10,000 per year; 77 percent earned $5.94 per hour on average.

Despite these low wages, less than 1 percent received cash assistance welfare or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). The median level of workers' education is 6th grade; 20 percent have completed less than 3 years of education. Approximately 85 percent reported that they would have difficulty reading and understanding written information even if it was written in their native languages.

Risk Factors for Sexual Violence

The migrant population experiences many of the same societal and community-level risk factors for sexual violence as non-migrant populations but have additional challenges associated with isolation, power imbalances at their work sites, and risk factors based on gender and age.

Environmental Risk Factors

Migrant farmworkers are prone to exploitation because of the inherent power imbalance that exists between worker and employers/supervisors. Farmworkers are often dependent on employers/supervisors for their basic needs in life, such as pay, transportation, housing, clothing, health care, education, legal papers/documents, information, and language/translation. Employers often misuse their power to bribe, punish, and sexually coerce workers.

The nature of agricultural employment—working long hours alone in remote fields, farms, orchards, and factories—places many migrant workers at a unique risk for victimization. Perpetrators often have access to victims and opportunity to commit sexual violence without anyone noticing or intervening. Often, migrant workers are paid by the pounds of goods they produce daily/weekly.69 This pay structure can undermine bystander intervention, pitting worker against worker in a race against the clock.

Many migrant farmworkers live in communal housing quarters, called labor camps. These camps are often on the outskirts of town in very isolated areas. They tend to lack appropriate lighting and do not generally have public phones for workers to call to report an emergency. In addition, their housing situation often requires them to share sleeping, eating, cooking, and bathroom facilities with many other workers. They may not have doors that close and lock. Individuals often lack the means necessary to keep themselves safe from perpetrators in these living environments.

Risk Factors Based on Gender and Age

Power imbalances and threats of exploitation based on gender and age also occur within the migrant community. In addition to being victimized by their employers, migrant women and children—minorities within the migrant farming industry—may also be victimized by their family members, partners/spouses, parents/caregivers, friends/acquaintances, and others within the migrant community. Migration can exacerbate women's vulnerabilities to sexual violence, increasing their dependency on their perpetrators for basic needs, language/translation, and legal papers/documentation and making it dangerous to report the violence and access services.70

Challenges to Reporting and Accessing Services

Challenges to reporting for migrant workers include cultural, linguistic, and geographical isolation; lack of knowledge about services; lack of culturally competent services; lack of knowledge about legal rights and legal service providers; and general fears of law enforcement. Workers who are sexually victimized may also fear retaliation, loss of employment, deportation, or being blacklisted when they seek employment elsewhere.

Legal Rights of Migrant Workers

Migrant farmworkers—whether documented or undocumented—have legal rights in the
United States. They have the right to work in an environment free from sexual violence and discrimination of all forms. Several pivotal federal laws protect these rights as follows:

In addition to federal laws, states may have laws that further protect migrant workers' rights. For more related information, consult with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Outreach Strategies

To reach out to migrant farmworkers, develop relationships and credibility within the migrant community over time (e.g., with organizations and businesses that migrant farmworkers use). In addition, consider initiating communitywide task forces to develop comprehensive strategies that coordinate efforts among governmental and nongovernmental agencies and organizations. For example, you might establish a committee or working group with representatives from the migrant farmworkers' community to address their specific challenges and risk factors. Or, you might develop a directory of resources or handouts to ensure that sexually assaulted migrant farmworkers know their rights and the assistance available to them.


Documents and Materials

Building the Rhythm of Change: Developing Leadership and Improving Services Within the Battered Rural Immigrant Women’s Community
Describes how to organize leadership among immigrant women and focuses on advancing the rights of battered immigrant women and improving their access to services.

Guidebook for Immigrant Victims
Provides basic information and a comprehensive referral list for documented and undocumented immigrants who are victims of crime.

Immigrant Populations as Victims: Toward a Multicultural Criminal Justice System
Summarizes findings from a study about the criminal justice system's approach to immigrant victims of crime and barriers that prohibit immigrants from reporting crimes.


Lideres Campesinas
Allows farmworker women—who have been the leaders of many grassroots and mobilizing efforts to improve the lives of farmworker communities—to coordinate their work statewide and give them a more unified voice.

Migrant Clinicians Network
Addresses the unique health care needs and barriers faced by migrant workers through leadership, innovation, collaboration, and support for health care providers.

National Center for Farmworker Health
Improves the health status of farmworker families by providing information, services, and products to a network of more than 500 migrant health center service sites in the United States and to other organizations and individuals serving the farmworker population.

National Immigration Law Center
Protects and promotes the rights of low-income immigrants and their family members. In the past 20 years, it has earned a national reputation as a leading expert on immigration, public benefits, and employment laws affecting immigrants and refugees.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Enforces the federal prohibition against national origin discrimination, sex discrimination, and sexual harassment.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Combines law enforcement arms of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and the former U.S. Customs Service to more effectively enforce the country's immigration and customs laws.

Web Sites

Legal Momentum—Immigrant Women Program
Provides articles, booklets, checklists, shelter information, Violence Against Women Act regulations, and information for legal and health care responses for immigration issues.

Serving Rural Victims

Rural counties account for nearly 75 percent of all counties and cover 83 percent of the Nation's land. Seventy-four percent of the 3,040 counties in the United States have populations of less than 50,000, and 24 percent have fewer than 10,000 residents. Generally, rural areas tend to be more racially similar than urban areas, but there is a great variation among rural regions of the Nation.71

In 2002, the W.K. Kellogg Company funded researchers to conduct 242 indepth interviews of rural, urban, and suburban Americans in several regions. Most respondents held strongly positive views about rural life, seeing it as the repository of traditional values, closely knit communities, and hard work.72 Rural America, as the people interviewed see it, helps perpetuate the values that define this country, such as individualism and self-sufficiency. According to respondents, rural Americans are the Nation's backbone as the suppliers of food, and their land represents the last open spaces in an environment with a rapidly developing suburban landscape.

At the same time, respondents' perceptions of rural America include a series of dichotomies. For example, rural life represents traditional American values, but is behind the times; it is more relaxed and slower than city life, but harder and more grueling; it is friendly, but intolerant of outsiders; it is richer in community life, but epitomized by individuals struggling independently to make ends meet; and it offers a particular quality of life that includes serenity and aesthetic surroundings, yet is plagued by a lack of opportunities, including access to cultural activities.

Read on for information about—

Facts, Perspectives, and Service Barriers in Rural Communities
  • Approximately 25 percent of Americans live in rural communities with fewer than 2,500 residents.73
  • Rural populations incur higher costs for services, yet individuals in rural areas have few personal resources.74
  • Victims needing assistance years after an assault may not understand that rape crisis centers are still available to help them.
  • Victims may perceive that police response times are delayed because their calls are classified as low priority rather than because of staffing or geographic barriers.

Defining Rural

Defining a place or people as rural often conveys an image of agricultural and family farms, ranches, sparsely populated areas, and a sense of community where people know one another and act in a friendly fashion. In this regard, the rural life is often associated with the good life. Yet for SARTs, rural communities generally mean serving populations who have to travel long distances to reach rape crisis centers, police stations, courthouses, shelters, health care facilities, and legal offices. It can mean working with individuals who may not have telephone service, who do not have access to public transportation, and who may have little awareness about victims' rights and services.

Rural can mean many things in terms of living configurations: a single family living on a farm miles away from a neighbor, a small dispersed community with limited services, small pockets of families and ethnic groupings, or a small town that has experienced economic and population declines.75 Rural also can mean a kind of cultural uniqueness rather than a specific region. One researcher suggests that rurality exists more as a state of mind and attitude than as an area on a map or a number of persons per square mile.76

For example, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault initiated a rural outreach project and found that defining rural communities in Texas was not an easy task. The association had difficulty in making correlations between communities situated hundreds of miles from the nearest airports, shopping centers, or hospitals and other rural communities that may be located within an hour or so of a major metropolitan area. Its initial attempt to define rural translated into describing communities that had very little in common: upper middle class retirement communities, farming communities on the Mexican border, small logging towns in East Texas, ranch lands in West Texas, and remote ghost towns turned tourist destinations. All of these areas qualified as rural or frontier, but the population base and needs within these regions were very different.77 The association ultimately realized that attempts to define rural by numbers of people or types of economy may inappropriately pigeonhole communities and inhibit relevant service provisions.

Federal Definitions of Rural

The two most common federal definitions of rural are found here:

You also can find links to publications that further define rural (e.g., the term "rural" itself, rural as it relates to health programs, rural values) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Library.

Overcoming Challenges

Rural victims are very visible, in that most residents are at least somewhat familiar with each other. For victims, this familiarity "translates into nearly a total lack of anonymity and little chance for confidentiality."78 If, for example, a sexual assault victim parks her car at the police station, local rape crisis center, or health care facility, the entire community could know it very quickly.

Transportation costs also can an issue. According to Rural America At A Glance, "rising transportation costs may disproportionately affect rural areas because, compared with urban residents, rural people depend more on personal vehicles and tend to travel longer distances to receive services."79

The size and configuration of various rural communities, along with unique cultural characteristics, lack of anonymity, greater physical isolation, informal social controls, scarce resources, distrust of outside assistance, and unclear views of sexual violence can challenge the most resourceful attempts to provide and coordinate SART services. Yet with creativity, expanded alliances, and governmental support, rural SARTs can be successful and sustainable.

Take, for example, the lessons the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services (FRIS) learned about creating partnerships in rural America to overcome challenges.80 As the only state located entirely in Appalachia, West Virginia faces challenges both economically and geographically. FRIS works with 9 rape crisis centers that provide services to nearly 2 million people scattered throughout 55 counties. Its role is to assist those centers and allied professionals in developing comprehensive services and effective prevention programs.

FRIS found that rural communities can thrive when they—

Hearing Rural Voices

In creating a project to help build the capacity of SARTs in rural areas, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault came to understand that rural communities did not need or even want a written model or protocol to help them function.81 Instead, they wanted decisionmakers within state agencies (namely grantors) to understand the challenges they faced. They wanted a more level playing field in the allocations process, one that recognized the significance of time and distance in reaching survivors rather than determining need based on the number of victims served. They wanted their voices heard. They wanted to be at the table so they could help determine and shape strategic directions for developing and delivering sexual assault services.

The association found that rural SARTs have well-developed problem-solving skills, are less burdened by territorial issues, and have more nontraditional allies. In addition, service providers are generally well known and respected within their service areas.

The association addresses rural issues as part of a master plan, not as an afterthought. This plan includes scheduling trainings and technical assistance events in rural settings. The expression "the road runs both ways" is never truer than when scheduling regional trainings, as it is just as easy for providers in the city to drive to the country as the other way around.

Enhancing Outreach

Sexual assault victims in rural communities may find it difficult to disclose their victimizations for many reasons, including because they fear that they will fall into the hands of people who cannot or will not assist them. If you want to develop or enhance outreach in rural communities, consider the following ideas:82


Documents and Materials

Addressing America's Forgotten Crime Victims: Model Strategies and Practices for Rural Victim Assistance
Discusses survey results of rural programs.

Alaska Statewide Protocol for Developing Sexual Assault Response Teams
Provides a standardized structure for developing, training, and implementing sexual assault response teams throughout Alaska.

Crime and Policing in Rural and Small-Town America: An Overview of the Issues
Examines what is known about crime and policing in rural areas and small towns and how they are shaped by their environment.

Gaining Insight, Taking Action: Basic Skills for Serving Victims with Disabilities (Video and Guidebook)
Highlights how to communicate effectively with crime victims, the challenges faced by underserved victim populations, and the relationship between substance abuse and victimization.

National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Chapter 22, Section 6: Rural Victims
Addresses concerns of specific victim populations (e.g., victims in Indian Country, victims of domestic violence, campus crime victims) and provides highlights of promising practices developed to meet the needs of victims in rural, remote regions.

Non-Reporting and Hidden Recording of Sexual Assault: An International Literature Review
Analyzes victims' decisions not to report to police, the extent of hidden recording (i.e., sexual assault is recorded as a secondary charge), and the differences in the reporting and recording of sexual assaults in remote, rural, and urban areas.

Rural Victim Assistance: A Victim/Witness Guide for Rural Prosecutors
Helps prosecutors, victim advocates, and policymakers understand the state of victim/witness assistance in rural communities, including staffing limitations, the roles and responsibilities of advocates, and the challenges that rural prosecutors' offices face in providing assistance to crime victims and effectively prosecuting the perpetrators of crime.

Sexual Assault Response and Resource Teams (SARRT): A Guide for Rural and Remote Communities
Guides rural and remote communities in overcoming the challenges they face in responding to sexual assault by improving coordination of services for victims across professional disciplines and agencies.

Unspoken Crimes—Sexual Assault in Rural America
Considers sexual assault from a rural perspective, including data on the prevalence of rural sexual assault, rural characteristics that deter reporting, and difficulties encountered by advocates. It also offers insights and best practices of rural advocates.


National Center for Rural Law Enforcement
Provides sexual assault investigation and management training for rural law enforcement.

National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health
Links to all 50 state Offices of Rural Health, each of which collects and disseminates information, coordinates rural health resources and activities statewide, provides technical assistance, encourages recruitment and retention of health care professionals, and strengthens state, local, and federal partnerships.

Praxis International: Rural Technical Assistance
Provides training, technical assistance, and networking opportunities to rural communities funded by the Office on Violence Against Women.

Web Sites

Rural Assistance Center
Serves as a rural health and human services information portal, providing rural communities and other rural stakeholders with access to the full range of programs, funding, and research that can enable them to provide quality health and human services to rural residents.

Rural Health, Health Resources and Services Administration

Includes information on grants, policy and research, and resources related to rural health.

Rural Healthy People 2010
Addresses priority health concerns of rural America (e.g., public health infrastructure, injury and violence prevention, mental health, access to emergency medical services and primary health care) and describes innovative programs and practices that address the concerns.

Rural Population and Migration: Diversity Increases in Nonmetro America
Provides an overview of the racial and ethnic diversity in rural America based on race, age, and poverty rates.

Serving Victims in the Military

The military has undertaken significant initiatives to end sexual violence. The Department of Defense's sexual assault prevention and response program focuses on preventing sexual assault, improving a victim's access to services, increasing the frequency and quality of information provided to victims, and expediting the proper handling and resolution of sexual assault cases. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has established directives that—

Read on for information about—

Military Legal System

The U.S. military is set apart from civilian culture by its laws, social customs, and practices.87 The military legal system comprises three elements that work together: the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Judge Advocate General Corps, and command discretion. In its intervention and prevention efforts, DoD has called on civilian experts and participated in training programs to adapt civilian concepts to the military context. However, state and local civilian policies, procedures, and programs that relate to sexual assault cannot always be fully replicated in the military. The constitutional allocation of powers between the Federal Government and states, the requirements of treaties (Status of Forces agreements), the Uniform Code of Military Justice, federal laws, the role of the commander, and the culture of the military all have an impact on the way the military responds to sexual assault.


Military law defines sexual trauma as sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and other acts of violence. It further defines sexual harassment as repeated unsolicited, verbal, or physical contact of a sexual nature that is threatening in nature.

You will need to consider each of the armed services' structures along with legal jurisdictional issues to develop programs that reflect the different missions and cultures that exist within the armed services. Two useful resources can help you in this endeavor:

Military Sexual Assault Policy

DoD's sexual assault policy, which is overseen by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, covers the following issues, among others:

The Right Tool

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Web Site Provides information for victims of sexual assault, unit commanders, first responders, and others who want to prevent or respond to this crime. Sections include law and policies, publications, research, training, and multimedia content.

Interagency Collaboration

DoD emphasizes a multidisciplinary approach to sexual assault that includes medical, legal, faith-based, advocacy, and mental health personnel. The collaborative efforts include partnerships with law enforcement personnel, criminal investigators, chaplains, family advocacy personnel, emergency room personnel, judge advocates, unit commanding officers, and corrections personnel.88

The DoD sexual assault policy also mandates that the military services collaborate with civilian service providers, as necessary.

Reporting Options

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office's goals are to create climates that keep the incidence of sexual assault to a minimum and, if incidents should occur, to ensure that victims and offenders are treated according to Armed Forces policy. In addition, victims are encouraged to report incidents of sexual assault without fear. Although DoD prefers complete reporting, it recognizes that some victims want only medical and support services without command or law enforcement involvement.

DoD provides victims with two reporting options:

Essentially, the confidentiality policy provides victims with increased control over the release and management of their personal information. Having choices in reporting can empower victims to seek information and support so they can make more informed decisions about participating in the criminal investigation. Jurisdictions with similar policies have found that confidentiality actually leads to increased reporting rates. Even if the victim chooses not to pursue an official investigation, these reporting options give commanders a clearer picture of the sexual violence within their command and enhance their ability to provide an environment that is safe and that contributes to the well-being and mission-readiness of all of its members.

Collateral Misconduct

The military has affirmatively addressed issues emerging from cases in which victims' behaviors may be subject to criminal/disciplinary actions. Issues of collateral misconduct are addressed in a manner that is consistent and appropriate to the circumstances. For example, some victims of sexual assault in the Army are hesitant to report assaults when doing so could potentially lead to disciplinary action against them for related offenses, such as drug or alcohol use that are related to the assault. Commanders now have the option to delay action on any victim misconduct related to an assault until after the investigation and prosecution for the assault is complete. This approach is designed to encourage victims to continue to cooperate in the investigation of their sexual assaults.89

Protecting Victims

To protect sexual assault victims, commanders may decide to separate victims and the alleged offenders, but they should first determine whether victims want to be transferred to different units (some may feel revictimized if they are transferred). They may also assist victims with military protective orders.90  


Veterans, both women and men, may have experienced sexual trauma while they served on active military duty. Many have never discussed the incident or their medical or psychological condition with anyone. Yet they know that they have "not felt the same" since the trauma occurred.

Health care professionals at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are sensitive to the aftereffects of sexual trauma and the impact it can have on a person's physical and emotional health. They understand the feelings of fear, anxiety, shame, anger, and embarrassment that victims can experience.

The VA provides eligible veterans with confidential counseling and treatment for the aftereffects of sexual trauma. In addition to counseling, related health care services also are available at VA medical facilities. It is important to know that counseling for sexual trauma can be provided regardless of whether the veteran ever reported the incident. Visit Women Veterans Health Care for more information.

Sexual Assault Reporting in the Military Is Increasing

Violence against women remains a serious and rising problem in the military, although Pentagon officials say an increase in reports from 2008 to 2009 may be due in part to a new social marketing campaign that discusses reporting. According to Fiscal Year 2009 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military: Report Summary, there were 3,230 reports of sexual assault, representing an 11-percent increase from 2008.


Documents and Materials

DoD Dictionary of Military Terms
Lists definitions of common military terms and acronyms.

DoD Directive 6495.01: Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program
Establishes DOD's policy on the prevention of and response to sexual assault.

First Responder to Sexual Assault
Describes how DoD has adopted a program of universal policies and procedures to address sexual assault. The program assigns new roles and procedures and features a multidisciplinary approach that includes medical, spiritual, and mental health personnel; victim advocates; and sexual assault response coordinators.

National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Chapter 3, Section 3: Military Justice
Provides information on the military justice system, including nonjudicial punishments, punitive discharges, and appeals. It also covers components of the military's bill of rights for victims of crime and the types of assistance available to them.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Procedures
Provides additional details on what the sexual assault prevention and response program should contain for DoD and the military services.

Task Force Report on Care for Victims of Sexual Assault
Provides a high-level, comprehensive assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in current DoD and service policies regarding the care of sexual assault victims.

Toolkit to End Violence Against Women: The Role of the U.S. Military in Preventing and Responding to Violence Against Women
Includes recommendations for what the military can do to make a positive difference in how it responds to sexual violence.

Victims of Child Abuse, Domestic Violence, Elder Abuse, Rape, Robbery, Assault, and Violent Death: A Manual for Clergy and Congregations—Special Edition for Military Chaplains
Addresses the spiritual dimension of victim services, the importance of the faith perspective, and the role of chaplains in responding to sexual assault.


Center for Women Veterans
Ensures that women veterans have access to gender-specific services and works to improve women veterans' awareness of services, benefits, and eligibility criteria.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office
Oversees the DoD-wide sexual assault policy.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Strives to provide high-quality, prompt, and seamless services to veterans.

Web Sites

DoD Victim and Witness Assistance Council
Provides victims of and witnesses to crime on military installations with training materials, DoD policy and guidance, applicable forms, links to related sites, contact information for victim and witness assistance coordinators and liaisons, and FAQs.

Military Health System
Provides data on the military health system and its providers.

Uniform Code of Military Justice
Includes links to the Congressional Code of Military Criminal Law that applies to all members of the U.S. military worldwide.

Serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Victims

According to The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, approximately 8.8 million people in the United States are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.91 This is a rough estimate because definitions of sexual orientation and behavior are not standardized. For example, some individuals who engage in same-sex behavior or intimacy do not identify as gay or lesbian and some individuals' gender identity or gender expression may not conform easily to female or male identities.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) community is diverse and includes individuals who may or may not be visibly identifiable as such to those around them. When LGBTQ individuals disclose their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex, they may suffer severe forms of discrimination and violence. For example, there have been numerous situations in which transgender persons have disclosed their sex and gender identity and have been sexually assaulted, seriously injured, and even murdered.

This section includes common terms and resources.

Common Terms

The following terms relating to the LGBTQ community were provided by the National Women's Alliance:

Bisexual: People who are emotionally and sexually attracted to both men and women.

Coming out: When someone willingly comes out, they accept and let others know of their previously hidden sexual orientation or gender identity. Many people, however, do not do so willingly.

Domestic partner: Unmarried partners who live together. Domestic partners may be of the same or different sexes or the same sex and have some legal benefits by registering in some municipalities and states.

Gay: Commonly refers to men who are emotionally and sexually attracted to other men, but can refer to women who are attracted to women.

Gender expression: Reflection of gender identity through dress, mannerisms, and so forth.

Gender identity: A person's sense of self as being either male or female; gender identity does not always match biological sex. For example, a person may be born biologically male yet have a female gender identity.

Homophobia: Irrational fear or hatred of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people; the responses of fear, disgust, anger, discomfort, and aversion that individuals experience in dealing with gay people. Homophobia often is manifested in the form of discrimination and prejudice.

Intersex: People born with some combination of male and female genitals.

Lesbian: Women who are emotionally and sexually attracted to other women.

Same-sex partner violence: Violence, such as physical, emotional, financial, and/or psychological abuse, experienced in same-sex relationships.

Sexual orientation: Indicates whether a person is attracted to men, women, or both.

Transgender: People whose psychological self (gender identity or expression) differs from their physical self (the sexual organs with which they were born). The term is sometimes shortened to trans or TG and includes, among other categories, transsexuals (those who have surgery or take hormones), cross dressers, and transvestites.


Documents and Materials

Abuse in Gay Male Relationships—A Discussion Paper
Informs victimized gay men; their friends, colleagues, and family; and helping professionals of how to identify and respond to intimate partner abuse.

Domestic Violence in Gay and Lesbian Couples
Reviews some of the many issues involved in domestic violence in gay couples and offers suggestions for intervention and treatment.

Domestic Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Bisexual Communities—Trainers Manual
Gives health and human service providers the knowledge and skills necessary to sensitively and effectively respond to LGBTQ victims of domestic violence.

Hate and Bias Crimes
Provides an extensive list of organizations and resources addressing hate crimes.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Domestic Violence in 2002
Describes incidents of domestic violence in the LGBTQ community that were reported during 2002 to community-based antiviolence organizations in 11 U.S. regions. The report also highlights LGBTQ survivors’ stories of domestic violence and summarizes the legal impact on the ability of LGBTQ people to access protective orders.

Living in the Margins: A National Survey of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Asian and Pacific Islander Americans
Discusses the results of a survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.

Relationship Violence in LGBTQ Communities—Moving Beyond a Gender-Based Framework
Critically reviews some of the research that has been done to better understand the contexts, dynamics, and impact of relationship violence within LGBTQ communities and identifies barriers that exist within support services when responding to this form of violence.

Seeing Past the 'L'—Addressing Anti-Male Bias in Sexual Assault Services for the LGBT Community
Discusses the silence of many LGBTQ advocates about services for men, arguing that GBT male victims are relatively unwelcome or invisible in anti-sexual violence centers. The article provides recommendations that agencies can follow to become more inclusive.


Anti-Violence Project
Provides LGBTQ and HIV-positive victims of violence and others affected by violence in New York City with free and confidential services, enabling them to regain their sense of control, identify and evaluate their options, and assert their rights.

Colorado Anti-Violence Program
Provides technical assistance, training, and education to community organizations, law enforcement, and mainstream service providers on violence issues affecting the LGBTQ community.

Community United Against Violence
Works to end violence against and within LGBTQ and questioning communities. It offers a 24-hour confidential and multilingual crisis line, free counseling, legal advocacy, and emergency assistance to survivors of hate crimes and domestic violence.

FORGE (For Ourselves: Reworking Gender Expression)
Serves survivors of sexual violence and their service providers through the Transgender Sexual Violence Project.

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders
Dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Trains activists, organizes broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBTQ referenda and advance pro-LGBTQ legislation, and provides research and policy analysis.

The Network/La Red
Addresses battering in lesbian, bisexual women, and transgender communities. Focuses on community organizing, education, support services, and coalition building with other movements for social change and social justice.

The Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse
Increases communities' ability to support the self-determination and safety of LGBTQ survivors of abuse through education, organizing, and advocacy.

WEAVE (Women Empowered Against Violence)
Addresses the legal needs of LGBTQ survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking through its LGBTQ Program.

Wingspan Anti-Violence Project
Provides free and confidential 24-hour crisis intervention, information, support, referrals, emergency shelter, and advocacy to LGBTQ victims and survivors of violence.

Web Sites
Features professional resources and literature relevant to domestic violence among gay and lesbian couples and provides links to each state's resources, including victim services and legal resources and statutes.

Lesbian Sexual Assault, Rape, and LGBTQ Domestic Violence
Lists information, resources, and hotlines for LGBTQ victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault.

Serving Ethnic and Racial Communities

This section briefly describes ways to serve specific ethnic and racial communities and provides links to targeted resources.

Read on for information about—

African-American Victims

African-Americans made up 12.9 percent (36.2 million) of the U.S. population in 2000. Of this number, 1.9 million (or 0.7 percent of the total population) reported African-American in combination with at least one other race.92

The historical and contemporary realities of African-American life in the United States lead to fundamental differences in the nature and quality of resources available to African-American survivors, their willingness to access services, and the treatment they receive when they do seek assistance.93

In fall 2003, the University of Maryland's School of Medicine, Center for School Mental Health Assistance collaborated with the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault to examine and better understand the unique experiences of female African-American sexual assault survivors in the state. Until this study, there had been limited research on the sexual victimization of African-Americans specific to post-assault responses. The study found that African-Americans in Maryland94

This section briefly describes ways to improve response systems and lists resources that can help you enhance your response and outreach to African-American victims.

Improving Response Systems

Few organizations or systems of care have evolved to a degree of proficiency in which cultural competency is infused at the levels of policy, administration, practice, and service delivery.95 The following recommendations are designed to help you increase your capacity to develop and implement culturally competent service delivery systems for African-American victims:


INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
Advances a movement to end violence against women of color and their communities through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing.

Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community
Focuses on the unique circumstances of African-Americans as they face issues related to domestic violence—including intimate partner violence, elder maltreatment, and community violence.

National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault
Ensures that systems-wide policies and social change initiatives related to sexual assault are informed by input and direction from women of color.

NO! The Rape Documentary
Reviews sexual violence and healing in African-American communities. This film explores how the collective silence about sexual assaults adversely affects African-Americans and encourages dialogue to bring about healing and reconciliation between all men and women.

Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women—Risk, Response, and Resilience
Provides a historical and sociocultural overview of African-American women’s sexual victimization; describes the characteristics of rape survivors and incidents; identifies risk factors; reviews the research on the mental and physical health consequences associated with sexual violence; suggests culturally sensitive responses for service providers; and highlights the resilience of African-American victim-survivors of sexual assault.

Latina/o Victims

The U.S. Latino population is not a homogenous group but rather a composite of various subcultures that can claim over two dozen countries of origin and a rich ancestry.  According to 2007 U.S. Census data, the number of people who speak Spanish at home increased from 28.1 million in 2000 to 34.5 million in 2007.98

Without a culturally competent infrastructure in place to serve Latina/o victims, there can be no meaningful participation by victims. The following resources may help you provide culturally relevant services to Spanish-speaking Latina/o individuals:

Alianza (National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence)
Promotes understanding, sustains dialogue, and generates solutions to move toward the elimination of domestic violence affecting Latino communities.

Arte Sana
Provides services to improve the quality of life of survivors of gender violence and racism, strives to prevent violence in communities, and provides training on strategy development for improving outreach efforts to underserved populations and culturally competent program development.

Offers resources and information through an online clearinghouse that provides samples, best practices, and training materials and also offers technical assistance to grantees of the Office on Violence Against Women, including recipients of state STOP grants.

Casa de Esperanza—Systems Change and Training
Mobilizes Latina/o communities to end domestic violence and enhance access to systems and organizations.

Federal Websites in Spanish
Lists federal Web sites that are offered in Spanish.

National Center for Cultural Competence
Lists publications on culturally and linguistically competent services as well as checklists that can help guide outreach to underserved, ethnically diverse populations.

National Council of La Raza
Includes information on advocacy, civil rights, justice, education, employment and economic opportunities, farmworkers, health, housing, and immigration.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Maintains a list of sexual violence prevention and intervention materials, some of which are available in Spanish.

National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care
Recommends national standards for culturally and linguistically appropriate services in health care.

OVC Foreign Language Publications
Helps serve non-English speaking victims and their families.

Texas Association of Sexual Assault Programs
Includes English and Spanish language publications about sexual assault, such as Confronting Sexual Assault, Rape in Marriage, Sexual Abuse of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities, and Sexual Assault and Spirituality: A Judeo-Christian Perspective.

Asian and Pacific Islander Victims

Asian Americans represent a large and rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population. A recent U.S. Census estimate puts the Asian population at more than 11 million people and predicts the population will more than triple by 2050. The individuals represented in these numbers are exceedingly diverse, coming from nearly 50 countries and ethnic groups, each with distinct cultures, traditions, and histories and with more than 100 languages and dialects.99 Asian and Pacific Islander populations include Bangladeshi, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Fijiian, Filipino/a, Guamanian, Hapa, Hawaiian, Himong, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian, Malaysian, Mepali, Okinawan, Pakistani, Samoan, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, Tongan, and Vietnamese.

Turn to the following organizations for expertise in Asian and Pacific Islander populations and support in your casework, community outreach, program development, and more:

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
Promotes policy, program, and research efforts to improve the health and well-being of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander communities.

Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence
Focuses on critical issues, research and data collection, community organizing, and analyses about gender violence.

Asian American Health
Includes information about major Asian American populations, medical journals, communicating with Asian children about health issues, statistics, alternative medicine, and other health topics.

Asian American Net
Promotes and strengthens cultural, educational, and commercial ties between Asia and North America and includes links to Asian American organizations and immigration resources.

Asian Women's Shelter
Provides peer-to-peer support to organizations in the United States that are focused on domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and stalking. Asian Women's Shelter also has developed models for multilingual advocacy and community building that include queer and transgender communities.

Provides technical assistance on complex questions arising in immigration cases for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors (offered exclusively to Office on Violence Against Women grantees) and offers resources and information through an online clearinghouse.

Hot Peaches
Lists hotlines, shelters, refuges, crisis centers, and women's organizations by country. Information about domestic violence is available in more than 70 languages.

Manavi, Inc.
Concentrates on the issue of violence against women in the South Asian immigrant community. Although Manavi is located and works with South Asian women who reside in New Jersey, its focus is also national and international.

Seeks to address the unmet needs of abused South Asian women by providing advocacy, support, information, and referrals within a culturally sensitive model.

National Center for Cultural Competence
Increases the capacity of health and mental health programs to design, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service delivery systems.

National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault
Ensures that systems-wide policies and social change initiatives related to sexual assault are informed by input and direction from women of color.

Pacific Asian Language Services
Provides and trains health care interpreters and translators.

Empowers women, particularly survivors of domestic violence, and strives to create a voice and safe environment for all South Asian women through outreach, advocacy, leadership development, and organizing.

Provides a medium of communication by and for South Asian women. The Web site includes articles, mailing lists, discussion groups, links to other Web sites, and a list of children's books and information on domestic violence organizations in Canada, the United Kingdom, India, and the United States.

Silent Epidemic: A Survey of Violence Among Young Asian American Women
Examines the impact of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and stalking among Asian American women ages 18–34.

American Indian Victims

Most women who are beaten or raped don't report to the police. They
just shower and go to the clinic [for treatment].100

Over the past decade, Federal Government studies have consistently shown that American Indian women, per capita, experienced more rape and sexual assault than any other racial group in the United States.101 One U.S. Department of Justice report concluded that more than one in three American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped during their lives.102 However, American Indian advocates state that these statistics provide a very low estimate and that rates of sexual assault against American Indian women are actually much higher. For example, many elders state that they do not know any women in their communities who have not experienced sexual violence.103

Read on for information about—

Cultural Considerations

When faced with the devastating impact of sexual violence, cultural ties can be a major strength for many American Indian victims and their families. Naming ceremonies, talking circles, feasts, spiritual belief systems, ceremonial dress, and cohesive family and community structures can provide victims with enormous help and support.104

To develop and achieve culturally relevant services for American Indians, you must recognize the importance of American Indian healing traditions—traditions that vary among and within Native nations. Another part of working toward culturally relevant responses includes understanding the sovereign status of Indian nations, becoming familiar with the federal trust responsibility, and recognizing how the effects of oppression, colonialism, and racism have caused unresolved pain in many American Indian lives.105

Use caution, however, in applying any concepts to a particular American Indian victim. It is neither expected nor possible to know all aspects of all American Indian cultures. However, it is important to understand American Indian law, tribal history, and how colonization has been addressed. You also should have a general sense of American Indian tradition and contemporary realities. In particular, show respect and be committed to an active stance of social justice that underscores the inherent sovereignty of indigenous peoples.

The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence has adopted
a position statement on tribal sovereignty

Tribal Justice

Tribal courts and victim response systems vary tremendously. More than 550 federally recognized American Indian/Alaska Native tribes exist in the United Sates, each with separate and distinct judicial systems. Some Indian nations have justice systems that mirror the structure of U.S. courts, while others have retained their indigenous justice forums. Most tribal justice systems include victim-sensitive components that include victim-witness services, probation departments, and correctional alternatives.106

To address criminal justice issues in Indian Country and services for victims, it is vital that you promote productive relationships between Indian nations, the Federal Government, and state governments.

Jurisdictional Considerations

When sexual assault occurs in Indian Country, the law enforcement response could include tribal police, state or local law enforcement, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and/or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In some cases, the difficulty of determining criminal jurisdiction, particularly when there may be concurrent jurisdictions, can translate into blurred jurisdictional boundaries, untimely action, or worse still, no action at all.


To this end, you must understand the importance of working collaboratively with tribal jurisdictions. Most importantly, non-Native organizations and governmental agencies must continue to recognize, affirm, and support the fact that Indian nations retain the inherent sovereignty and authority to prosecute American Indian perpetrators of sexual assault.

For example, Public Law 83-280 (commonly referred to as Public Law 280 or PL 280) was a transfer of legal authority (jurisdiction) from the Federal Government to state governments, which significantly changed the division of legal authority among tribal, federal, and state governments. Public Law 280 is a controversial and complicated statute. It is often misunderstood and misapplied. The Tribal Law Clearinghouse created a document, Public Law 280: Issues and Concerns for Victims of Crime in Indian Country, which explains some of the controversies and challenges.

SART Services

Culturally specific models of sexual assault response are the most effective in meeting victims' needs. For examples of culturally specific responses, see the Tribal Law and Policy Institute's Resource Guide for the Development of a SART in Tribal Communities, which tribal organizations can consult to develop a comprehensive response to sexual assault using the SART model. If you are not a member of a tribal community, consult with tribal organizations in your area about available culturally specific services and partner to provide services and referrals.

Consider some of the following ideas, found in Sexual Victimization in Indian Country:107

As is true for any community you are targeting, determine the best ways to disseminate information about your services, and remember that the "best way" will vary by community. According to Sexual Victimization in Indian Country, "the best way to disseminate information will vary across communities, but local cable access channels, local radio stations, bulletin boards in frequented offices and stores, parent-teacher meetings at schools and Head Start, public restrooms, pow-wows, and other community events are all good places to advertise. It is unlikely that many victims will approach advocates in such public settings, but these strategies raise awareness."109


American Indian Health
Brings together health and medical resources pertinent to the American Indian population, including policies, consumer health information, and research.

The Changing Federal Role in Indian Country
Discusses the Federal Government's revised efforts and approach in handling crime and justice on Indian lands.

Framework of Tribal Sovereignty—American Indian Policy Center
Provides a historic overview of sovereignty: Indian governments have inherent sovereignty, which is not derived from any other government, but rather from the people themselves.

Impact Evaluation of STOP Grant Program for Reducing Violence Against Women Among Indian Tribes, Final Report
Assesses 123 American Indian projects that received grant funding under the STOP (Service, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) grant project of the Violence Against Indian Women program.

Indian Health Council, Inc.
Dedicated to the continual betterment of Indian health, wholeness, and well-being.

Indian Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Raises the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.

Indian Law Resource Center
Provides legal assistance to American Indian and Alaska Native nations who are working to protect their lands, resources, human rights, environment, and cultural heritage.

Justice in Indian Country: A Process Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Justice Indian Country Justice Initiative, Final Evaluation Report
Investigates ways to improve coordination among the federal and American Indian nations justice systems.

Maze of Injustice
Provides information on and recommendations for overcoming law enforcement policing issues, providing forensic medical examinations, overcoming barriers to prosecution, and providing accessible support services for survivors.

Mending the Sacred Hoop Technical Assistance Project
Improves the safety of American Indian women who experience battering, sexual assault, and stalking by offering training, technical assistance, and resource materials that specifically address violence against American Indian/Alaska Native women.

National American Indian Court Judges Association
Supports American Indian and Alaska Native justice systems through education, information sharing, and advocacy. Its membership is primarily judges, justices, and peacemakers serving in tribal justice systems. The site offers publications and links to tribal organizations and tribal codes, tribal constitutions, and court opinions.

The National Congress of American Indians Resolution #TUL-05-101
Supports the adoption and implementation of national policy and protocols on rape and sexual assault within Indian Health Service Unit emergency rooms and contract health care facilities. The resolution also supports funding for collaborative efforts between governmental and nongovernmental service providers in developing and implementing comprehensive sexual assault policies and protocols within Indian Health Service emergency rooms.

National Indian Justice Center
Designs and delivers legal education, research, and technical assistance programs that improve the quality of life for American Indian communities and the administration of justice in Indian Country.

National Map of Federally Recognized Tribes
Shows Indian land as well as contacts for regional Indian program managers and coordinators.

National Native American Law Enforcement Association  
Promotes and fosters cooperation between American Indian law enforcement officers and private industry and the public.

National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Chapter 3, Section 4: Tribal Justice
Covers the relationship of tribal justice systems to other local, state, and federal systems; differences between the tribal justice system and the U.S. criminal justice system; and federal support for Indian Country programs.

Office of Tribal Justice, U.S. Department of Justice
Facilitates the coordination of a broad range of American Indian issues to help unify the federal response. The Web site provides information about grant and funding opportunities, public safety and law enforcement, publications, and statistical studies.

Policy Issues
Lists a broad range of policy issues that intersect with the response to sexual violence and provides information on tribal governance, community development, health and human services, Alaska Native issues, cultural protection, and native Hawaiian issues.

The Principles of Advocacy: A Guide for Sexual Assault Advocates
Focuses on sexual assault against American Indian and Alaska Native women and explores specific elements of perceptions, policy, and other key factors to determine the scope of the problem.

Public Law 280—Tribal Law and Policy Institute
Provides legal considerations for Public Law 280 and links to other documents.

Resource Guide for the Development of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) in Tribal Communities

Provides a starting point for developing victim-centered SART teams in tribal communities.

Rights and Remedies: Meeting the Civil Legal Needs of Sexual Violence Survivors
Provides information on tribal legal issues and lists tribal/nonprofit organizations and national tribal coalitions in chapter 6.

Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence, Support, Training, Access, and Resources (SAFESTAR)

Trains health care workers in tribal communities to gather and maintain sexual assault forensic evidence for use in tribal, state, and federal courts and to make appropriate health care and other service referrals.

Sexual Victimization in Indian Country—Barriers and Resources for Native Women Seeking Help
Covers barriers to help-seeking behavior, includes resources for American Indians who have experienced sexual victimization, and describes how to incorporate culturally congruent practices into service delivery.

Southwest Center for Law and Policy
Provides legal education, training, and technical assistance on domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, child abuse, abuse of persons with disabilities, and stalking to tribal communities and to the agencies and professionals serving them.

Tips for Non-Native Medical Providers Working In Alaska Native Communities
Offers practical tips for service providers working with American Indian victims.

Tribal Justice and Safety in Indian Country
Aims to improve the safety of American Indian and Alaska Native communities and helps the public and federal agencies involved to learn more about tribal justice and safety issues in Indian Country.

Tribal Law and Policy Institute
Provides access to research, training, and technical assistance programs that help enhance justice in Indian Country and the health, well-being, and culture of Native peoples.

Tribal Strategies Against Violence: Cross-Sites Evaluation Report
Evaluates the performance of four American Indian tribes under the Tribal Strategies Against Violence initiative, a federal-tribal partnership intended to reduce crime, violence, and substance abuse. Also available in the Tribal Strategies Against Violence series:

Trust Responsibility, American Indian Policy Center
Provides a historical overview of the federal trust responsibility that arises out of the nationhood of tribes.

Victim Services: Promising Practices in Indian Country
Describes promising practices for assisting victims of violence and abuse in 12 Indian Country locations throughout the United States. Each description includes the program's keys to success, relevant demographic data, and a contact for further information.

Violence Against Indian Women, Final Revised Report
Describes a study in which researchers studied an area's readiness to develop and implement effective violence-prevention efforts in 15 American Indian communities in both urban and reservation settings. The study concludes that measures to prevent violence against women must involve multiple systems, use tribal community resources, and consider historical and cultural issues.


1 Melissa Hook, Morna Murray, and Anne Seymour, 2011, Gaining Insight, Taking Action: Basic Skills for Serving Victims with Disabilities, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, 29.

2 S.A. Pires, Building Systems of Care: A Primer, Washington, DC: National Technical Assistance Center for Children's Mental Health, Georgetown University for Child and Human Development, 2002. Cited in National Center for Cultural Competence, 2004, Checklist for Systems of Care Communities National Center for Cultural Competence, Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development.

3 National Multicultural Institute, nd, "The Case for Diversity: Why Diversity? Why Now?," National Multicultural Institute's Web site, accessed July 21, 2010.

4 Laura Zárate, 2001, Suggestions for Upgrading the Cultural Competency Skills of Sexual Assault Response Teams, Dripping Springs, TX: Arte Sana.

5 Ohio Department of Health, 2004, Cultural Sensitivity/Cultural Competency in Assisting Survivors of Sexual Assault, Columbus, OH: Ohio Department of Health.

6 Pires, Building Systems of Care: A Primer.

7 Delia Saldana, 2001, Cultural Competency: A Practical Guide for Mental Health Service Providers, Austin, TX: Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, The University of Texas at Austin.

8 Sujata Warrier, 2000, Outreach to Underserved Communities, Harrisburg, PA: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 10–11.

9 Saldana, Cultural Competency: A Practical Guide for Mental Health Service Providers.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division, 2001, State of Hawaii Strategic Plan for the S.T.O.P. Violence Against Women Formula Grant FY 2001, Honolulu, HI: Department of the Attorney General.

16 Warrier, Outreach to Underserved Communities Introduction, 24.

17 Jane Sadusky and Jennifer Obinna, 2002, Violence Against Women: Focus Groups with Culturally Distinct and Underserved Communities, Madison, WI: Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services.

18 Victim Services Network, nd, "Cultural Competency," VSN Manual, Denver, CO: Victim Services Network.

19 U.S. Census Bureau, 2010, Language Use in the United States: 2007, Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.

20 T. Goode, S. Sockalingam, M. Brown, and W. Jones, 2000, Linguistic Competence in Primary Health Care Delivery Systems: Implications for Policy Makers, Washington, DC: National Center for Cultural Competence.

21 Saldana, Cultural Competency: A Practical Guide for Mental Health Service Providers.

22 S. Sherow and J. Weinberger, 2002, A Report on Health Literacy, Philadelphia, PA: Adult Basic and Literary Education Interagency Coordinating Council.

23 Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, 2006, Reaching Individuals along all Literacy Levels, 3(3).

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, 1982, Final Report of the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime, Washington, DC.

27 Barbara Whitchurch and Andrea Beaderstadt, 2007, Building Victim Assistance Networks With Faith Communities, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

28 Cynthia Okayama Dopke, 2002, Creating Partnerships with Faith Communities to End Sexual Violence, Olympia, WA: Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, 28.

29 Whitchurch and Beaderstadt, Building Victim Assistance Networks with Faith Communities.

30 Dopke, Creating Partnerships with Faith Communities to End Sexual Violence, 12–16.

31 American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Adolescence, 2001, "Sexual Assault and the Adolescent," Pediatrics 107(6): 1476–1479.

32 Ibid.

33 Callie Rennison, 1999, Criminal Victimization 1998: Changes 1997–1998 With Trends 1993–1998, Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

34 Committee on Adolescence, 2001, "Care of the Adolescent Sexual Assault Victim," Pediatrics 107(6): 1476–1479.

35 Bonnie Fisher, Francis Cullen, and Micheal Turner, 2000, The Sexual Victimization of College Women, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice and Bureau of Justice Statistics.

36 Cheron Dupree, Tom McEwen, Deborah Spence, and Russell Wolff, 2003, Evaluation of Grants to Combat Violence Against Women On Campus, Alexandria, VA: Institute for Law and Justice.

37 Donna Barry, nd, Montclair State University.

38 California Campus Sexual Assault Task Force, 2004, California Campus Blueprint to Address Sexual Assault, Rancho Cordova, CA: Governor's Office of Emergency Services, 14.

39 California Campus Sexual Assault Task Force, California Campus Blueprint to Address Sexual Assault, 14–15.

40 Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force, 2006, Recommended Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexual Assault Response and Prevention on Campus, Version 1, Salem, OR: Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force.

41 Meuer, Seymour, and Wallace, 2002, "A Community Checklist: Important Steps to End Violence Against Women," Chapter 9, Appendix B, National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

42 Anne Seymour and Jane Sigmon, 2002, "Campus Crime and Victimization," Chapter 22, Section 4, National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

43 California Campus Sexual Assault Task Force, California Campus Blueprint to Address Sexual Assault, 31.

44 National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, 2000, Ending Violence Against Women: An Agenda for the Nation.

45 Meuer, Seymour, and Wallace, "A Community Checklist: Important Steps to End Violence Against Women."

46 Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force, Recommended Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexual Assault Response and Prevention on Campus.

47 California Campus Sexual Assault Task Force, California Campus Blueprint to Address Sexual Assault, 32.

48 Ibid., 17.

49 Ibid., 34.

50 Meuer, Seymour, and Wallace, "A Community Checklist: Important Steps to End Violence Against Women."

51 California Campus Sexual Assault Task Force, California Campus Blueprint to Address Sexual Assault.

52 Dupree, McEwen, Spence, and Wolff, Evaluation of Grants to Combat Violence Against Women On Campus.

53 Johnson and Sigler, 2000, "Forced Sexual Intercourse Among Intimates," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 15(1).

54 Roeher Institute, 1995, Harm's Way: The Many Faces of Violence and Abuse against Persons with Disabilities, Ontario, Canada: Roeher Institute.

55 Office for Victims of Crime, 2007, Victims with Disabilities: The Forensic Interview, DVD Trainer's Guide, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

56 Margaret Nosek and Carol Howland, 1998, Abuse and Women with Disabilities, Harrisburg, PA: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

57 Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy, Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence,
Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and IndependenceFirst, 2004, Accessibility Guide for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Service Providers, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

58 Office on Violence Against Women, A National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations Adults/Adolescents.

59 Office for Victims of Crime, 2008, First Response to Victims of Crime, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

60 Marc Dubin, 2000, "Serving Women with Developmental Disabilities: Strategies for the Justice System," Impact 13(3): 12–13.

61 Donna Hughes, 2003, Hiding in Plain Sight: A Practical Guide to Identifying Victims of Trafficking in the U.S, 3.

62 Vital Voices, nd, Modern-Day Slavery: Important Information About Trafficking in Persons, Washington, DC: Vital Voices.

63 Ibid.

64 Hughes, Hiding in Plain Sight: A Practical Guide to Identifying Victims of Trafficking in the U.S.

65 Ibid.

66 National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, 2001, "The United States Within the International Community—Responding to Trafficking in Persons," Toolkit to End Violence Against Women, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

67 Many of these recommendations are found in Heather Clawson, Kevonne Small, Ellen Go, and Bradley Myles, 2003, Needs Assessment for Service Providers and Trafficking Victims, Fairfax, VA: Caliber Associates, 31–38.

68 D. Carroll, R.M. Samardick, S. Bernard, S. Gabbard, and T. Hernandez, 2005, Findings
from the National Agricultural Workers Survey 2001–2002, Washington, DC: US
Department of Labor.

69 R. Clarren, 2005, "The Green Motel," Ms. XV(2): 40–45.

70 E. Erez and N. Ammar, 2003, Violence Against Immigrant Women and Systemic Responses: An Exploratory Study, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

71 Susan Lewis, 2003, Unspoken Crimes: Sexual Assault in Rural America, Enola, PA: National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 2.

72 W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2002, Perceptions of Rural America: Congressional Perspectives, Battle Creek, MI: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 1–2.

73 Jennifer Averill, Ann Padilla, and Paul Clements, 2007, "Frightened in Isolation: Unique Considerations for Research of Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence in Rural Areas," Journal of Forensic Nursing 3(1): 43.

74 TK Logan, Lucy Evans, Erin Stevenson, and Carol Jordan, 2005, "Barriers to Services for Rural and Urban Survivors of Rape," Journal of Interpersonal Violence 20(5): 591–616.

75 Lewis, Unspoken Crimes: Sexual Assault in Rural America.

76 Ibid, 2.

77 Annette Burrhus-Clay, 2007, "Serving Communities: Coalition Efforts at Rural Outreach," ReShape: Rural Advocacy 21: 2–4.

78 Lewis,  Unspoken Crimes: Sexual Assault in Rural America, 4.

79 Economic Research Service, 2006, Rural America At A Glance, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 5.

80 Nancy Hoffman, 2007, "Lessons Learned in Rural America," Reshape; Rural Advocacy 21: 4–7.

81 Burrhus-Clay, "Serving Communities: Coalition Efforts at Rural Outreach."

82 Many of these ideas are discussed in OVC's Gaining Insight, Taking Action: Basic Skills for Serving Victims with Disabilities.

83 Logan, Evans, Stevenson, and Jordan, "Barriers to Services for Rural and Urban Survivors of Rape."

84 Susan Murty and Susan Schechter, 1999, "Reaching Rural Communities," A National Assessment of Rural Domestic Violence Service Needs 32(January).

85 Ibid.

86 Colleen James, 2001, Initiating SANE/SART Program Development with Strong Community Commitment, Homer, AK.

87 Courtney Mullins, 2005, "Understanding Sexual Assault in the United States Military Culture," Connections 7(1): 8–11.

88 Bernie Ingold, 2002, "Specific Justice Systems and Victims' Rights: Military Justice," National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

89 See the Leader Responsibilities Web page of the U.S. Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention program.

90 Ibid.

91 Gary J. Gates, 2006, Same-Sex Couples and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Population: New Estimates from the American Community Survey, Los Angeles, CA: UCLA School of Law, The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy.

92 Jesse D. McKinnon and Claudette E. Bennett, 2005, We the People: Blacks in the United States, Census 2000 Special Reports, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau.

93 Carolyn West, 2006, Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women: Risk, Response, and Resilience, Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a Project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

94 Mark D. Weist, Jennifer Pollitt-Hill, Linda Kinney, Yaphet Bryant, Laura Anthony, and Jennifer Wilkerson, 2006, Sexual Assault in Maryland: The African American Experience, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

95 T. Goode and V. Jackson, 2003, Getting Started ...and Moving On...Planning, Implementing and Evaluating Cultural and Linguistic Competency for Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and Families, Washington, DC: National Center for Cultural Competence.

96 Ramsey County Sexual Assault Protocol Team, 2004, Ramsey County Adult Sexual Assault Response Protocol, Version 2.

97 Weist, Pollitt-Hill, Kinney, Bryant, Anthony, and Wilkerson, Sexual Assault in Maryland: The African American Experience.

98 U.S. Census Bureau, Language Use in the United States: 2007.

99 Terrance Reeves and Claudette Bennett, 2003, The Asian and Pacific Islander Population in the United States: March 2002, Current Population Reports, Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.

100 Amnesty International, 2007, Maze of Injustice, New York, NY: Amnesty International Publications, 2.

101 Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes, 2000, Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

102 Ibid, 22.

103 Sarah Deer, 2005, "Sovereignty of the Soul: Exploring the Intersection of Rape Law Reform and Federal Indian Law," Suffolk University Law Review 38(2): 455–466.

104 Sara Blahauvietz, 2005, "Key Factors in Forensic Interviews with Native American Children," Update 18(6).

105 Hilary Weaver, 1999, "Indigenous People and the Social Work Profession: Defining Culturally Competent Services," Social Work 44(3).

106 Ada Pecos-Melton, 2002, "Specific Justice Systems and Victims' Rights: Tribal Justice," Victims Assistance Academy Textbook, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.

107 S. Hamby, Sexual Victimization in Indian Country, Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, A Project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2004.

108 Ibid, 6.

109 Ibid, 7.

Back to Consider Culture and Diversity