Partnering with community sexual assault response teams (SARTs)

Partnering with community sexual assault response teams (SARTs)

A community SART can be extremely useful to staff at correctional facilities and the people in their care. Effectiveness in responding to sexual victimization depends not only on coordination within the correctional facility, but also between the facility and community agencies. By working with the community SART, correctional facility staff can coordinate their actions with responders from the victim advocacy, medical forensic, and law enforcement fields to help their residents receive the best care available and help build a case for prosecuting the perpetrators. A partnership with the community SART also helps corrections administrators systematically incorporate a victim-centered approach into their facility’s response while maintaining safety and security.[1]

Correctional facilities such as community confinement or juvenile detention facilities often have long histories of partnering with local agencies so that residents can draw on their resources. Partnering with a community SART allows facilities to tap local expertise and resources in their response to sexual assault rather than starting from scratch to develop these assets in-house.

If there is a SART that serves the region and a facility wishes to link to its services, the facility leaders and staff will want to do the following:

  • Request that the SART extend its scope to facility residents.
  • Request that the SART review facility policy to ensure that the facility’s internal response is appropriately coordinated and victim-centered.
  • Ask the SART to incorporate into its protocol any variations in procedures needed to respond to facility residents.
  • Become an active SART member.
  • Instruct facility staff and SART agencies on the specifics of the facility response policy.

This guide walks administrators of correctional facilities through the steps to achieve these five objectives. Carrying out these objectives can be challenging. Adopting this approach means that corrections staff must change their attitudes about responding to residents who are sexually victimized, reach out to community professionals for assistance, and include community response in facility policies. This approach also requires that SARTs expand to include a victim population—people in the custody of correctional agencies—that has often been excluded from their response.

[1] For information on collaborating with advocates to implement victim-centered responses, see OVC’s Building Partnerships Between Rape Crisis Centers and Correctional Facilities to Implement the PREA Victim Services Standards. See also National PREA Resource Center webinars Creating a Safe Space: PREA and Victim Services in Community Confinement (Just Detention International, or JDI), and Developing Partnerships with Community-Based Service Providers – Part I and Part II (JDI and Vera Institute of Justice). A resource for rape crisis centers is JDI’s Hope Behind Bars: An Advocate’s Guide to Helping Survivors of Sexual Abuse in Detention.

Given that every community does not have a SART, references to SART in this guide ultimately mean “a coordinated victim-centered response” among facility staff and relevant community agencies. Even without a formal SART, a correctional facility can still implement a SART approach in conjunction with local responders.

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