Put the Focus on Victims
skip navigation 

San Diego SART Military Program—California

The military has a large presence in San Diego, California. Due to differences in the civilian and military response to sexual violence, a specific military program was developed under San Diego's civilian Sexual Assault Response Team protocols.

Making the Idea a Reality
The military needed to train medical personnel to ensure that medical forensic examination skills were available on foreign bases and naval vessels. Initially, emergency departments and obstetric/gynecological residents were trained to conduct evidentiary exams for adult sexual assault victims. After 2 years, the military decided that this did not meet the needs of victims or law enforcement because of the competing time constraints of the medical residents. Therefore, specially trained Navy examiners were assigned to conduct evidentiary examinations at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego and provide forensic education to the medical residents.

Sexual assaults committed on military bases fall under the jurisdiction of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS), and authorized examinations are conducted at the Naval Medical Center. Sexual assaults of military personnel or dependents in San Diego proper (non-military bases) are authorized by the law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the assault occurred. These examinations may be conducted at San Diego SART facilities or the Naval Medical Center. Patient support is provided by advocates from the Sexual Assault Victim Intervention (SAVI) program or by community-based advocate programs.

A strong collaborative relationship between military personnel and the representatives from the San Diego sexual assault community has helped ensure a coordinated program. The following brief summary of the program is adapted from the SART Systems Review Committee Report:

  • A sexual assault program was established at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego in 1994.
  • The Navy expanded the program to include colposcopic exams for on-base and military dependent children.
  • San Diego forensic examiners provided education for the Sexual Assault Victim Intervention (SAVI) program.
  • San Diego advocates worked with SAVI to establish a procedure for military advocates to provide victim assistance when exams are done at adult SART facilities. This process is important to help familiarize victims with the military's sexual assault procedures.
  • The San Diego SART model was presented to the Navy Surgeon General for use in the establishment of the Navy's multidisciplinary sexual assault program.
  • Military forensic examiners observe and train at San Diego SART facilities to increase experience.
  • The adult sexual assault naval program was temporarily discontinued in July 2000, and NCIS authorized the use of other SART facilities.

Benefits to Victims
Victims have a coordinated system of care regardless of whether they first seek services at civilian or military facilities.

Benefits to Victim Service Professionals
Military medical personnel are trained to provide forensic medical exams before they are deployed.

Lessons Learned
Because of routine staff transitions at the base, it became difficult to maintain a designated exam site at the naval base. Most of the sexual assaults happen off base and are under the jurisdiction of local law enforcement rather than military police. The military base, the community-based advocacy agency, and local hospitals collaborated to provide forensic medical exams at the two civilian hospitals with established SARTs. Followup is still with SAVI and advocates.

Even though forensic medical exams are no longer performed on base, the nursing director at Camp Pendleton schedules SART trainings for nurses so they will be educated to respond when they are deployed.

Contact Information
San Diego Police Department
Sex Crimes Unit
1401 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101–5729