More About SART

What is a SART?

A Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is a group of community professionals who work jointly to minimize the trauma for sexual assault victims when they seek medical and legal assistance. Through coordination of the investigation process, a SART seeks to reduce repeated questioning of the victim and increase effective collection and preservation of evidence. Communities that have chosen to organize formally into a team have developed different concepts of a SART.

One method is to work as a team of individuals who respond together to jointly interview the victim at the time of the sexual assault exam. Another method is to work independently on a day-to-day basis but communicate with each other regularly (possibly daily, and meet weekly or monthly) to discuss mutual cases and solve mutual problems thus making the system function more smoothly.

Who is on a SART?

SART members typically include emergency department medical personnel, law enforcement and a sexual assault advocate. (Other partners may include representatives from state forensic labs, public health departments, victim - witness programs, prosecution offices, crime victim compensation offices, child / adult protective services, organizations serving victims from under-served populations and social and human services.)

  • Law enforcement personnel conduct the investigation and provide emergency assistance.
  • Emergency department medical personnel conduct the forensic evidentiary examination.
    (Some communities utilize specially trained nurses called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners - SANEs)
  • Sexual assault advocate provides emotional support, information and referrals to the victim during the examination and police interview and throughout the healing process.

How does SART Work?

The goal of a SART program is to ensure a coordinated community response to deal with the needs of the rape victim. This is the primary focus whether members of the SART respond together or work independently to solve mutual problems.

Generally, when a rape victim goes to the Emergency Room, law enforcement is called to determine if a crime has been committed. The SANE (a trained nurse) is contacted at this time, if a SANE program is in place, along with the victim advocate. With the advocate present to provide support, the hospital staff or SANE and police conduct an in-depth interview of the victim after briefly conferring to coordinate questioning and reduce repetition.

Once the interview is completed, the police officer waits outside the exam room while evidence is collected. The evidence is turned over to law enforcement or locked in a secured area for law enforcement to pick up at a later time. With the victim's permission, the advocate remains in the exam room to provide support during the exam as well.

When the exam is completed, the SANE makes any necessary follow up medical care appointments and the advocate makes arrangements to contact the victim for supportive counseling and legal advocacy.

Why is SART important to the community?

A SART can help prevent confusion among professionals trying to meet the needs of the rape victim during the progression through the health care and criminal justice systems. The team approach seeks to lessen the traumatizing nature of the rape exam.

Through coordination of the investigating process, a SART works to reduce repeated questioning of the victim and to increase effective collection and preservation of evidence.

WV FRIS will continue to assist with the establishment of Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) in the state. These two national programs have been identified as promising practices by the US Department of Justice in decreasing violence against women.

To learn more about SART advocacy in West Virginia please visit the official website of the:

West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services