Based on NIJ-funded research on the structure and operations of sexual assault response teams (SARTs) across the United States, this report identifies the most important features of an effective SART.
SARTs are typically composed of a collection of stakeholders in rape cases, including rape victim advocates, medical/forensic examiners, law enforcement personnel, and prosecutors. They sometimes include representatives of faith communities and other social services. The research consisted of two studies that found SART stakeholder membership, collaboration, and implementation varies significantly, which may explain why prior research on SARTs yielded mixed results. The first of the two current studies classified SARTs from a national representative sample based on three factors: the number of different stakeholder members, formalization of SART processes, and collaborative activities. Groups in the three categories were compared based on data regarding legal outcomes of rape cases managed. The study determined that SARTs with more formal procedures, frequent collaboration and meetings, and more varied stakeholder groups, coupled with planned program evaluation had the highest levels of perceived effectiveness. In the second study, three exemplary SARTs were examined in more detail for the relationships among team members. Social network analysis found that SART members interacted frequently, felt valued by one another, and viewed one another as respected resources. This mutual valuation among members was related to more communication and a coordinated response to sexual assault.
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