This study used a multistep process to create the first random sampling frame of Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) and then studied how they are structured and function.
SARTs bring together sexual assault responders (e.g., police, prosecutors, medical/forensic examiners, rape victim advocates) to coordinate and improve the response to sexual assault. Ultimately, SARTs seek to improve sexual assault victims' experiences of seeking help and sexual assault case outcomes in the criminal justice system. To date, there are hundreds of SARTs across the United States; however, there has been no nationally representative study of how SARTs are implemented. In addressing this issue, the current study found there are commonalities as well as variations across SARTs. Most SARTs rated improving legal outcomes, improving victims' help-seeking experiences, and prevention/education as important goals; yet most prioritized their time and energy toward victims' experiences. SARTs' membership varied, with an average of 12 organizations involved in the SART, and 75 percent of SARTs having active membership from police, prosecutors, rape victim advocates, and medical/forensic examiners. SARTs were moderately formalized and most SARTs engaged in most collaborative processes (e.g., multidisciplinary cross-training, case review, policy/protocol development, and review) on an as needed basis. Finally, results revealed that some types of cross-system coordination in responding to victims/cases were quite frequent, whereas other types of coordination were quite infrequent. Implications for future research and supporting the development and sustainability of SARTs are discussed. (Publisher abstract modified)