Protocols and Guidelines for Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART)

SART protocols/guidelines are agreements between agencies about the provision of sexual assault services and the roles and responsibilities of core responders. Ultimately, protocols provide a way for team members to institutionalize interagency expectations in order to maintain high quality, consistent responses over the long-term.

SART protocol development requires that each agency on the team customize their individual agency responses into an ideal multidisciplinary, coordinated response. The Minnesota Model Protocol Project uses a responsibility matrix   to show distinct and interrelated responsibilities among team members as a catalyst to develop a SART protocol. Blank rows at the end of each section provide spaces for SARTs to add other tasks as SARTs evolve over time. 
When creating guidelines or protocols, teams should balance the need for structure and certainty with a system that allows for flexibility based on victims’ specific needs and case variables. For example, once policies are written, there could be legal or procedural repercussions when procedures are not followed, no matter how compelling the reason. To offset potential problems, some teams refrain from using the term protocol and write their policies as guidelines to minimize legal repercussions when policies are not followed.
Once team policies are established, many SARTs formalize the process through memoranda of understanding or agreement (MOU/MOA). MOUs/MOAs are important in the structuring of position/agency relationships.
Sample MOUs/MOAs are available online through the SAFE TA project’s library (see Program Administration: Memorandum of Understanding samples).


Protocols from around the country, including statewide and local materials, are included below:

Guidelines for Community Response to Sexual Assault in Alaska These updated 2012 guidelines are designed to provide standardized structure for the development, training and implementation of SARTs throughout the state of Alaska.

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault SART Manual Version 1: This manual covers the importance of SARTs for victims and the community, building sexual assault response teams, decision making, advocacy/law/ enforcement/medical/prosecutorial responses, evaluations, case reviews and community outreach.

Halton (Canada) Community Response Protocol: This 2002 protocol consists of community agencies that agreed to sign memoranda of agreements in the response to sexual violence so that victims would receive a consistent, knowledgeable and compassionate response from any agency. The document starts with a flowchart of the response to sexual assault disclosures.

Handbook on Justice for Victims: This handbook provides practical and comprehensive guidance for service providers. The appendix provides a checklist for programs to consider.

Kentucky: Developing a Sexual Assault Response Team: This resource guide is designed for rape crisis centers, health care providers and other community agencies in Kentucky that are interested in starting SART programs. It can easily be adapted to jurisdictions nationally.

Michigan—The Response to Sexual Assault—Removing Barriers to Services and Justice:  The overall goal of the document is to enhance the ability of the community, victim advocacy organizations, medical system and criminal justice systems and other key systems to design and support effective local and state sexual assault system responses for adult and adolescent victims of sexual assault.

New Jersey Attorney General’s Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault:   These 2004 standards were developed with the intention of implementing a systematic focus on the needs and concerns of sexual assault victims. Chapters include: Rape Care Advocacy, Law Enforcement, Standardized Medical Treatment, Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Kits, Examination Facilities, Specialized Services for Child and Adolescent Victims, Special Needs and Vulnerable Victim Populations, Discharge and Safety Plan, Evaluation of SART Services, Prosecution SART Training, and County SART Advisory Boards.

New Hampshire: A Model Protocol for Response to Adult Sexual Assault Cases 2015 Edition

North Dakota Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Protocol: This 2011 protocol contains sections on the roles of community agencies, law enforcement and medical personnel; overview of the forensic medical exam; information on sexual assault evidence kits; evidence collection from suspected perpetrators; and post-evidence collection procedures.

Oregon SART Handbook: This handbook was developed by the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force. It is designed to assist SARTs in varying degrees of development. It provides recommended practices for responders, information on victim-centered and offender-focused response, as well as sample protocols, policies and resources in Oregon.

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape—SART Guidelines : The 2002 guidelines are intended for use by communities of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in order to promote a comprehensive set of recommended practices in the response to sexual violence. The material can help communities set goals, evaluate current policies and practices and identify policy directions.

San Diego SART Manual: The manual outlines standards of practice, including roles and responsibilities, for members of an interdisciplinary SART team.

West Virginia Protocol for Responding to Victims of Sexual Assault: This protocol offers a multidisciplinary, victim-centered approach for victim advocates, law enforcement, hospitals and medical personnel prosecution. Its primary purpose is to assist hospitals to minimize the physical and psychological trauma to the victim of a sexual assault and maximize the probability of collecting and preserving the physical evidence for potential use in the legal system.

Winona County, MN Sexual Assault Response Team Protocols: The site includes links l for the county attorney protocol, law enforcement protocol, hospital protocol, clinic protocol, and advocacy protocol.

Wisconsin Adult Sexual Assault Response Team Protocol The Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault developed this protocol for Wisconsin communities as a guide to establishing and/or evaluating best practices in responding to victims of crime of adult sexual assault.