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SART Toolkit Section 4.2

Section 4: Meeting Logistics

SART Formation SART Operations  

SART Operations

SART Meeting Logistics

SARTs generally hold regularly scheduled meetings to develop relationships, discuss emerging issues, and monitor progress on outcomes. Meetings provide regular opportunities to further the team’s mission by creating space to make improvements, identify concerns, and celebrate successes. The regular pattern of communication provided by meetings is seen as an important component in effective teamwork. [33]

Some SART members may feel team meetings are too long or take them away from their work. To keep the meeting to a reasonable length, consider holding separate meetings for case reviews or conduct different meetings to discuss forensic, medical, and legal issues. The best meeting format is one that respects the time constraints that participants may have while budgeting adequate time to address agenda items.

Team meetings serve an important function in which teams can monitor progress, revisit mission and goals, assess changes in the larger community, ensure sufficient resources, and formulate strategy for addressing any remaining challenges. [34] Meetings can serve as a transitional space between SART response episodes, during which missions and goals can be revisited and strategies for improving response formulated. Engaging in this kind of transition process has been shown to increase overall team effectiveness. [35]

Purposeful meetings often include — [36]

  • providing agendas with goals for the meeting that are clear, concise, and measurable;
  • including sufficient time for each agenda item;
  • distributing the agenda and supporting information at least one week before the meeting;
  • beginning each meeting by reviewing any items remaining from the previous meeting;
  • fostering continuity from one meeting to the next by reminding team members where they are in the process; and
  • ending each meeting with a summary of the next steps needed.

As a statewide coordinator of the Kansas Sexual Assault Network put it — [37]

“Over the past seven years I have worked with professionals from all over the state who have come together to form SARTs. Some individuals come with an initial reservation; others come with drive and determination. The result of the meeting process is a strong team of community members willing to learn about and from one another, sift through challenges, overcome turf issues, commit to common goals, face the fear of change, build mutual respect and ultimately, decide to change the way victims’ access and receive services. I have seen team members argue, I have seen them laugh, I have seen tears, I have seen compassion, I have seen frustration, and I have seen systems change for the better.”

Conducting Successful Team Meetings

A SART can provide the space for successful collaboration between groups of professionals by implementing procedural and normative best practices. The following guidelines can help you achieve this success.

Procedurally, SARTs should —

  • find the right team members to attend meetings. Recognize that responding to sexual violence is not for everyone. It may take time, resources, and difficult conversations to ensure the right people from each agency are on the team to ensure culturally responsive, trauma-informed care and policies for each and every victim to ensure healing and the best chance at criminal justice outcomes.
  • create ground rules for meetings. Establish both procedural and behavioral rules that SART members should follow. SARTs that develop ground rules emphasizing mutual respect, victim confidentiality, and methods of conflict resolution are better positioned to address issues proactively and sensitively. Meeting ground rules increase meeting effectiveness. [38]
  • create and prioritize SART goals. Having a collective mission, shared goals, and common objectives is a cornerstone of effective teamwork. [39] SART members must be willing to break down barriers between disciplines and seek common ground to reach mutual SART goals rather than agency-specific objectives.
  • establish new member orientation. SARTs evolve and grow. Creating a welcome packet and orientation process for individuals joining an established SART will help new members feel valued, respected, and appreciated. Orienting new members also ensures everyone understands the team philosophy. [40]
  • promote shared leadership. If one agency or individual governs decision-making without consulting other team members, the SART as a group may not have the "ownership" needed to ensure success. Collaborative or shared leadership models increase meeting effectiveness. [41] Sometimes this means the responsibility for facilitating meetings is rotated among SART members. Ensure consistency by providing resources to members who will be acting as meeting facilitators, such as sample agendas and a checklist of facilitator responsibilities (such as preparing and distributing an agenda prior to the meeting). Before concluding each meeting, ensure that all necessary roles, such as facilitator and notetaker, are designated for the next meeting.

As important as proper procedures, the following norms or standards within your SART are essential for success:

  • Respect different views and opinions. While diversity is one of the essential elements of collaborative efforts, it also results in differing and often unique perspectives about the best way to respond to sexual assault. To develop good working relationships, make sure to respect different roles, responsibilities, and perspectives. Mutual respect is often seen as a prerequisite of team effectiveness. [42]
  • Acknowledge small successes. Recognize and appreciate small benchmarks achieved on the road to larger goals. To acknowledge achievements publicly, consider putting out media releases or community newsletters or holding educational presentations for schools or community groups.
  • Welcome community diversity. Enhance outreach to traditionally underserved communities by including perspectives on gender, age, culture, disability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic and geographical variables in the response to sexual violence. Be sure to include multiple perspectives and not tokenize any SART or community member by asking them to speak for an entire group.
  • Include victim perspectives. Victims know firsthand what can improve the response to sexual violence. Including victims recommendations when developing your protocols and guidelines will help make this process more accessible and easier to navigate.
  • Remain patient. Most team objectives take longer than expected to complete, and it often takes longer than expected to develop a team ready to tackle the most complicated pressing concerns. Teams may start by working on non-threatening issues like meeting location and agenda format and move into developing a shared vision, mission, and goals that anchor the team with a united purpose.

Meeting Frequency, Time, and Place

Some states have laws that specify how often a SART should meet. Consult your state statute or contact your state’s SART training and technical assistance (TA) advisor to ensure that your SART is meeting all jurisdictional requirements. Often your statewide sexual assault coalition can guide you to this information, if it exists. In other states, a coordinator may have recommendations or requirements. Yet in others, the SART can determine what works best for them.

There is no “best practice” for how often meetings should be held, as the frequency of meetings should match the amount of work the group needs to accomplish with individual member needs. SARTs function best when there is predictability regarding frequency and consistency with dates, times, and locations of meetings. In the beginning, SARTs often hold planning meetings weekly or biweekly.

Once a SART is established, you might move to monthly or quarterly meetings. More established SARTs may find that holding less frequent meetings strikes the right balance of maintaining channels of communication and ensuring smooth operations without burdening individuals. Some established SARTs hold more meetings to provide a continuation of communication or to complete a specific project.

It is important that meetings be experienced as meaningful [43] with the time used in a way that contributes to members’ abilities to effectively meet the needs of survivors. Meeting more often than necessary can lead to members losing enthusiasm and skipping meetings because meetings are not seen as a good use of limited time. Having some regular pattern of communication [44] is important for monitoring ongoing operations, engaging in cross-training, and revisiting mission and goals.

Regular communication may consist of in-person meetings, virtual meetings, group emails, or other shared virtual space. Although some SART members may see each other during service provision, regular, intentional communication focused on operations and the process of service provision is necessary.

If your SART is running well, you may want to shorten the meeting time, skip a month, or meet only when issues arise or not at all. Be careful, however, about interrupting the momentum of these meetings. Problems may develop, standards may shift, relationships may break down, and, ultimately, without team meetings, problems could go unresolved or pile up. Often, SART members can determine what works best for the group of people in the SART at any given time, but some states have laws that specify how often SARTs should meet. If meeting attendance declines, consider developing a meeting feedback survey to help identify ways to improve the meeting process.

Additional meeting opportunities include holding multiple day trainings. Some SARTs hold two-day meetings to launch the team or hold an annual half-day or daylong session to do more in-depth work or plan for the coming year. These meetings provide SART members the opportunity to spend significant time together focused on big-picture goals, such as strategic planning, evaluation, or other training. Some states hold yearly meetings for all SARTs. Other SARTs attend national training conferences as teams.

SARTs can increase attendance at meetings by holding them in a location that is accessible, convenient, and comfortably accommodates all participants. [45] SARTs may rotate meeting locations and times to accommodate different schedules and to give SART members a chance to become familiar with other agency settings. Details such as finding a comfortable location and offering food can increase meeting effectiveness. [46]

Virtual Meetings

Thanks to emerging technology, video and conference calls may be an option for team members who live far from the meeting location. When considering remote meeting attendance, it is important that SARTs evaluate the technology and location of technology at each organization to ensure the device being used is private and safe and the location is private and safe without distractions. When hosting remote meetings, it is important to have a backup option for members who have technology concerns before or during the meeting.

Additionally, SARTs may want to consider what topics are appropriate for remote meetings. For example, SARTs may choose to delay more difficult conversations or case review for in-person meetings, both to preserve relationships and to keep survivors’ information private. Whenever your team considers the use of technology, ask: “Is it safe, is it private, what if it is not working, and are we causing unintended negative consequences?”

Agendas: Critical Meeting Tool

Agendas are critical meeting tools that — [47]

  • increase effectiveness;
  • keep meetings organized and focused;
  • support forward momentum for teams;
  • encourage ethical communication among members;
  • ensure everyone has the same information prior to a meeting;
  • introduce the team to guest speakers or facilitators;
  • allow attendees to prepare for meetings;
  • set a level playing field, where everyone has access to the same information;
  • keep team members and agencies informed; and
  • act as a historical record.

Creating and following an agenda can function as a strong tool in guiding productive meetings. Whether SARTs use formal agendas depends in large part on the facilitator’s and members’ willingness to follow an agenda and stay on topic.

SART members can use agendas as a tool to defuse heated disagreements that arise during meetings, as anyone at the meeting can interject mentioning something to the effect of, “While this is an important conversation, it is not on the agenda — we could be discussing the predetermined topic,” or “This is an important discussion. Can we add it to the next agenda so everyone on the team has time to learn more before we make any decisions?” or “[specific member] is not at the table and should be for this discussion. Let’s add this topic to a future agenda, when everyone is available.”

Alternatively, having an agenda allows SARTs to recognize a new topic when it arises, allowing for the team to decide if they would like to reorganize the meeting to discuss it when it arises and shift the current topic to a future agenda. Having a clear agenda that people use during meetings supports equity among members, as it encourages transparency among all and is not left up to any one member.

The meeting facilitator can bring an annotated agenda with notes about who will guide each section and what process will be used to ensure team members move smoothly through each agenda item.

Develop the Agenda

SART members should decide who creates agendas and how they will be created. Possibilities include: setting the next agenda at the conclusion of each meeting, assigning agenda preparation to the facilitator or another team member, or giving agenda setting responsibility to the SART coordinator if there is one. Formal agendas should include information such as the time and place of the meeting and a list of topics scheduled to be discussed with a suggested length of time and assigned facilitator when appropriate.

Alternatively, SARTs may agree to have a meeting following the American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) tradition of holding a talking circle [48] where the agenda is to come together, possibly with a specific topic or question. The act of coming together to share may result in and develop relationships crucial to the SART’s success. SARTs may use this time to share, as they feel appropriate, about themselves, why they do this work, how this work impacts them, or recent events, or to see where the conversation flows.

Asking team members to share about their office culture — including how decisions are made, how complaints are filed, how training takes place, how new hires are trained, and what support exists — may provide members with an appreciation for different office styles and a wider toolbox as teams plan SART meetings.

Some SARTs may develop additional information to be sent with agendas, such as —

  • minutes from previous meetings;
  • short biographies or introductions to trainers, guests, or external facilitators;
  • handouts that will be used or referenced during the meeting;
  • evaluation results or data reports, as appropriate;
  • drafts that need to be discussed during a meeting; and
  • information about other roles, such as a timekeeper or minute taker.

Determining Discussion Items for Agendas

Having a written, transparent process accessible to all members and agencies creates a more balanced power dynamic. In some SARTs, members call or email SART coordinators with agenda topic suggestions, and coordinators share the lists during meetings for team members to determine future agenda items. In some SARTs, members may submit a specific form outlining the topic, a proposed facilitator, a date, and any additional information. These forms can be used to hold SART leadership accountable to members, especially in cases where there are perceived power imbalances.

Some topics — such as reviewing a strategic plan, considering evaluation data, reviewing roles, reviewing membership, and participating in cultural competency training — may appear on meeting agendas monthly or yearly. Some topics may be discussed over the course of several meetings or decided quickly. The speed with which a SART addresses a topic is not indicative of the quality of the team. Some teams quickly make decisions and need to revise those decisions months later. Other teams with members who have worked together in other capacities may be able to predict challenges or need to address past grievances before agreeing to move into a new agreement. Regardless of the process, it is important all members know how to add topics to the agenda and feel comfortable doing so.

The following is a list of example agenda items that SARTs often discuss. It is not an exhaustive list of topics for SARTs to discuss and is in no particular order. SARTs may revisit the following topics as they learn what does or does not work for their team. Click on the topics below for more specific information about a particular topic:

  • Logistic information

    • Agendas: Agree to a format and process for developing, including how far in advance members would like to see them.
    • Meeting locations: Discuss what works.
    • Meeting minutes: Who will record, what format, how will we follow up on action items?
    • Meeting frequency: How often a meeting will be held.
  • Decision-making process with the goal of developing a process to be used by your SART that all members agree to
  • Member responsibility regarding the SART
  • Agency’s responsibility regarding the SART
  • Agencies’ roles regarding responding to sexual assault
  • Roles of service providers regarding responding to sexual assault
  • Confidentiality: legal and ethical responsibilities related to
  • Mandatory reporting: legal and ethical responsibilities related to
  • Accountability to victims, to agencies, to team members, to mission
  • Membership: who is on the team, who should be, how to invite others, membership tiers, board, open group, closed group, can agencies request to join
  • Develop a common language
    • Victim/survivor/patient
    • Offender-focused
    • Victim-centered
    • Trauma-informed
  • Mission/vision/goals
  • Victim input
  • Strategic planning: While you might not arrive at any conclusions during formation, actively planning for a strong future is essential.
  • Future tasks: You may not engage in these yet, but keep a list.
  • Critical issues
  • Leadership
  • Best practices
  • Commitment to Start by Believing [49]

Established SART meeting agendas may include topics that cover multiple meetings and focus on completing large tasks such as —

  • community needs assessments;
  • service mapping;
  • engaging with specific populations;
  • community education and outreach;
  • culturally specific services;
  • review of existing, agency-specific protocols;
  • SART protocol development;
  • develop evaluation of team or service provision;
  • review evaluation of team or service provision;
  • revise community needs assessment instruments;
  • legislation;
  • best practices;
  • trainings;
  • create resource guides or packets;
  • providing feedback to community;
  • analyze and incorporate evaluation feedback;
  • media;
  • prevention;
  • case review;
  • analyze victim experience survey;
  • develop, revise, and review a strategic plan for the SART;
  • create or revise protocols and guidelines for a coordinated response;
  • review cases and evaluate systemic responses;
  • provide interagency cross training; and
  • address public policy issues.

SART Meeting Resources

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault — Statewide Sexual Assault Response Team Manual Version I (PDF, 57 pages)

This manual, developed by the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, is a handbook and seeks to act as guidance to SARTs. It can be used by teams, using each section as an agenda item. It includes a number of useful questions for teams that can be used to guide discussions among SARTs.

Gaining Momentum for Unproductive Team Meetings (Microsoft Word, 4 pages)

Each member of the SART can answer this questionnaire individually, and then the responses can be tallied and discussed.

Mandatory Reporting Obligations by Provider or Type of Service (PDF, 2 pages)

This tool by the Victim Rights Law Center provides a chart for teams to fill out based on their local realities to increase provider awareness of survivors’ privacy rights across disciplines. This may be especially useful to teams during formation, when making referrals, and when directing survivors to resources.

Sample SART Meeting Agenda (Microsoft Word, 1 page)

This document is easily adaptable for any SART and is a highly formal version of an agenda. Agendas that clearly set expectations for upcoming meetings increase transparency, particularly around decision-making, that allow member organizations to make informed decisions about preparation and attendance.

Sample SART Meeting Minutes (Microsoft Word, 2 pages)

This document is easily adaptable for any SART and is a highly formal version of meeting minutes. Taking objective meeting minutes that are accessible to everyone in the SART supports buy-in and provides a historical record for decisions or concerns and follow-up tasks.

SART Agenda Topic Request Form (Microsoft Word, 1 page)

This document is easily adaptable for a SART that requires or chooses a formal way to submit meeting requests. Using something like this document or adapting this document to your local needs will ensure accountability and transparency to make sure all topics from all participants are included in a timely manner on agendas.

Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes, which are notes recording details about meetings, provide a record of who was at meetings, discussions, decisions made, actions determined necessary, and accountability.

Minutes should be recorded during meetings, not written after a meeting from memory. Some SARTs share this responsibility among multiple members, some SARTs include a support person who can take minutes, and other SARTs assign the duty at each meeting or for a period of meetings. Depending on who is taking minutes and agency habits, minutes may range from 3 sentences, recording only the largest of decisions, to 25-page transcriptions of meetings. While both extremes may be useful in particular instances, most SARTs settle in the middle.

Minutes should be shared with all members and approved by all members to ensure that an accurate record is being developed. Finalized, approved minutes should be shared with discipline-specific leadership to increase accountability, buy-in, and awareness. Coordinators or SART leaders can refer to the meeting minutes at the end of the year to emphasize or share all the work SARTs accomplished during the year. SARTs will likely be amazed at how far their team moved forward, even if they are often in the midst of what appear to be slow-moving conversations.

SARTs may also have meetings where minutes are intentionally not taken, such as during trainings, open discussion, or case review. When SARTs meet and do not take minutes, it should be recorded that minutes were intentionally not taken during a discussion or an entire meeting.

SARTS and the Freedom of Information Act

Team members should consult with counsel, likely the state’s attorney or public records officer, to consider whether meeting minutes and other documents generated by the SART and its members will be subject to disclosure pursuant to a request made under the jurisdiction’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Because these laws are complex, it makes sense to consult with an attorney or the jurisdiction’s public records officer for advice. Every state has some form of law that requires government agencies, departments, and boards to disclose records upon request. [50]

To encourage full government disclosure and accountability, the default position of every law is in favor of timely disclosure of requested information. The requestor does not have to justify the request for disclosure; there is no requirement as to the purpose of the request. All requests must be responded to, no matter what the requestor intends to do with the information. To further encourage timely disclosure, many laws have short timelines for response and harsh penalties for unjustified refusal to fully disclose the requested information.

State FOIAs vary considerably, so the SART must check its jurisdiction’s statutes to determine if it is an entity subject to the statute and whether any exceptions to disclosure apply to the SART. Some laws may require a representative of a covered entity to appoint a FOIA coordinator, who is in charge of addressing requests made under the law. The SART should also develop a written plan for handling requests made under FOIA.

The SART must first determine whether it is an entity covered under the jurisdiction’s FOIA. To do this, the SART should confer with local counsel, such as the state attorney general’s office. The definition of a covered entity can be quite broad. For example, Virginia’s FOIA applies to “public bodies,” defined as:

any legislative body, authority, board, bureau, commission, district or agency of the Commonwealth or of any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, including cities, towns and counties, municipal councils, governing bodies of counties, school boards and planning commissions; governing boards of public institutions of higher education; and other organizations, corporations or agencies in the Commonwealth supported wholly or principally by public funds... [51]

Under Virginia law, the Commonwealth’s attorney is obligated to establish a SART, making it a statutorily created body. [52] Because it is a statutorily created body, it is covered by Virginia’s FOIA and any record created and maintained by the SART is potentially subject to disclosure pursuant to a FOIA request. As of 2017, five states and the District of Columbia have state-mandated or statutorily created SARTs. [53]

However, like most FOIA laws, Virginia’s includes many exceptions. The Virginia law specifically addresses the portion of the minutes of meetings at which individual sexual assault cases are discussed. [54]

Other state FOIA laws may include exemptions based on the nature of the information as private, the disclosure of which would unduly embarrass the person whose private information is requested (see, New York’s Freedom of Information Law, N.Y. Pub. Law Sec. 89 [55]), or an exception for information expressly shared with the covered entity upon a promise to keep it confidential. In addition, exemptions from disclosure are sometimes created in different statutes, usually statutes that mandate the collection of certain private, privileged, or confidential information. (See Michigan’s Crime Victims’ Rights Act, MCL 780.818, [56] which exempts a crime victim’s identifying information from disclosure under the State’s FOIA.)

Determining whether the SART is subject to FOIA when not explicitly created as a government entity is more difficult. For example, Michigan’s FOIA has a detailed list of government bodies and agencies covered by FOIA, including a “catch-all” subsection that includes:

Any other body that is created by state or local authority or is primarily funded by or through state or local authority, except that the judiciary, including the office of the county clerk and its employees when acting in the capacity of clerk to the circuit court, is not included in the definition of public body. [57]

Whether a SART is covered by Michigan’s FOIA, or other state laws similar to it, depends upon how the term “primarily funded by state or local authority” is interpreted. A broad interpretation may include a SART that has a membership largely made up of government officials, or one led by a government official. Where a SART receives government grant funding, it is possible that grant award will bring a SART within the FOIA disclosure requirements.

To ensure that a SART complies with the law in its jurisdiction, the SART should consider the following:

  • Be aware of the definition of which entities are covered by the jurisdiction’s FOIA and determine if the SART is subject to FOIA’s disclosure requirements.
  • If your SART is a covered entity, determine your SART’s obligation under the FOIA to maintain records and appoint a staff or team member to be directly responsible for responding to FOIA requests, even if not required by statute. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney and/or county, city, or statewide public records officers to help make this determination and for information on exemptions and redactions.
  • If your SART is a covered entity, determine if there is an exemption from disclosure of records that may include discussion of specific sexual assault cases, or other identifying information.
  • Create a policy of record keeping consistent with FOIA obligations, and in consultation with counsel (e.g., state’s attorney or public records officer). Include within the policy identification of what is exempt from disclosure and how such exempt records will be maintained separate from records created and maintained that are subject to disclosure.

Facilitating a Meeting

Facilitating a SART meeting may mean educating SART members in new ways of thinking about sharing information and resources. Because the SART concept is one of an equal partnership among agencies, the meeting facilitator needs to commit to shared decision-making. Participatory decision-making increases member engagement [58] and overall meeting effectiveness. [59] [60]

One consideration in good facilitation is to ensure that the facilitator is not required to hold too many roles at one time. Consider the various roles of chair, facilitator, agency representative, presenter, notetaker, and team coordinator, and divide the roles up as much as possible. For example, if a member is facilitating the meeting, they may be so focused on actively facilitating that they may miss opportunities to contribute to a conversation based on their role. Alternatively, if the facilitator does most of the talking during discussions, members may not feel as though they are being heard.

One solution is to have more than one representative from an agency that is also sponsoring the facilitator, where the roles are clearly determined. Another solution is to trade facilitation between meetings or topics. When teams do not have alterative facilitators, the facilitator can clearly note when they are switching roles. Visually, a facilitator can take off a hat when speaking from their perspective as a team member and wear the hat when they are speaking from the point of view of a facilitator.

Skillful facilitation will help your SART define and reach its goals, assess needs, and manage interpersonal dynamics. Here are some tips to help you facilitate your team meetings:

  • Establish brainstorming sessions to allow the free flow of ideas.
  • Tie together various comments, questions, and concerns raised in discussions.
  • Confirm that everyone present understands the decisions reached.
  • Work to involve people who tend to be quiet during the meetings.
  • Keep the meetings and discussions focused on the objectives of the group.
  • Address controversial issues thoroughly rather than attempting to reach a consensus prematurely.

Creating Successful Team Norms

Fostering healthy and agreed-upon team norms is important for SARTs. Norms are often thought of as accepted or consistent patterns of behavior within a particular group. In this case, norms may be thought of as the accepted or expected ways team members interact with one another. For instance, a successful team norm is one in which everyone feels they can participate and have open communication. For example, in Project Aristotle, researchers at Google found that high-performance teams typically had environments of “psychological safety … a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up … a climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.” [61]

While psychological safety may be an unfamiliar concept, SART members and coordinators can take concrete steps to introduce the idea and increase, monitor, and encourage psychological safety. Teams that engage in conversational turn-taking and social sensitivity promote psychological safety. [62] Two concepts that contribute to physiological safety are conversational turn-taking, where team members all participate the same amount by the end of the meeting, and social sensitivity, where team members know how their tone of voice, expressions, and non-verbal cues affect other members. These concepts may be useful for SARTs to incorporate into meetings. [63]

Other norms to consider discussing are —

  • how the team will handle decision-making (how formal or informal);
  • expectations around attendance (e.g., punctuality, absences);
  • hearing difficult statements (e.g., say “ouch,” then educate);
  • length of team meetings; and
  • whether interruptions are okay or not.

In many ways, setting norms is a process of identifying a group consensus on how you show respect for each other’s time and ideas. It is highly encouraged to allow teams to define their norms, in the context of formal meeting tools. For example, teams that use meeting tools such as agendas and take meeting minutes are likely to be more successful. What the team decides is important to include on the agenda will vary based on local circumstances and membership. Teams may need to review, revisit, or change team norms with turnover.

SARTs can discuss and develop team norms that promote these behaviors. One way to introduce the concept is to ask SART members to think about other teams of which they have been a part — in work, volunteering, or any aspect of their lives where they felt all members’ concerns and ideas were heard and valued.

Many teams build opportunities directly into SART meetings to get to know one another beyond their roles, such as starting meetings with a personal check-in question or sharing food before or after the meeting. Discussing what works for your team will help you develop a structure and format that will make team meetings effective and comfortable. Some teams open with an icebreaker while others dive immediately into business items.

Promoting Teamwork

Many teams have found that joint training fosters teamwork. Team members who train together may find opportunities to discuss issues of mutual concern, both in the training itself and during breaks. Spending time together away from the immediate and constant demands of members’ jobs allows the team to focus on how it functions. Moreover, team members hear the same information, which improves their shared understanding of the challenges they face in their response to sexual assault and their ability to find solutions to those challenges.

Although not essential, social activities can strengthen your team. Simply combining lunch with a team meeting can serve this social purpose. Some teams sponsor picnics, awards banquets, and other activities to reinforce good working relationships. [64]

Creative Thinking

The very nature of a SART requires the team to discuss differing approaches to issues and policies. To ensure each member has an opportunity to be heard, you may need to brainstorm possible solutions. One of the primary benefits of brainstorming is that each team member can learn from the experiences and knowledge of other team members.

Team members can speak as ideas occur to them, through small-group breakouts that report back to the entire team, or in a round-robin format during which team members are each given opportunity to speak.

To facilitate brainstorming — [65]

  • welcome all ideas — it is better to modify an extremely innovative idea than to censor it;
  • encourage the team to strive for a large number of ideas — quantity can lead to quality;
  • encourage the team not to criticize or judge;
  • allow sufficient time for questions, clarification, and comment after brainstorming;
  • record all ideas on a flipchart; and
  • encourage team members to build on each other's ideas.

Decision-Making

An important component of any SART is agreeing on a decision-making process. Team members often come from agencies with very different cultures regarding authority and decision-making, elevating the importance of establishing how the SART will function. SARTs can discuss each agency’s decision-making processes and make a conscious determination of which style to implement. SARTs may revisit decision-making processes with turnover to ensure that the process continues to work for the existing team members. This may feel like a lot of unnecessary work; however, planning for difficult decisions before they arise may sustain a SART through difficult conversations.

Reaching decisions by consensus or through voting are the two primary options: [66]

  • Consensus: In a consensus, the entire team agrees on a certain course of action. In a hard consensus, everyone outwardly agrees. In a soft consensus, everyone may not agree, but team members do not openly object. Soft consensus is common, especially when the decision is not a critical one.
  • Voting: If you decide to vote on an issue, you'll have to determine what the minimum vote will be:
    • The greatest number of votes, even if it is less than half of the total.
    • A simple majority — a recommendation must receive more than half of the votes.
    • Two-thirds or more of the vote.

Do not feel tied to one or the other ways to reach a decision. You could, for example, first try to reach a hard consensus. If that is unsuccessful, then the team can vote or study the issue further.

The Decision-Making Process

Many steps are involved in the decision-making process, some of which are discussed below: [67]

  • Define the problem: How long has the problem existed? How frequently does it occur? Who is affected? Who is involved?
  • Determine the cause: Identify the reason behind the present situation and the desired outcome.
  • Gather information: Collect data. It can come from many sources — victim surveys, statistics, community needs assessments, case reviews, journal articles, or anecdotal accounts.
  • See the big picture: It is important to look at how decisions will affect your SART and its responses as a whole. The decision-making process should honor how decisions affect the entire team, including likely outcomes, possible outcomes, unintended consequences, and possible solutions.
  • Consider all possible solutions: When weighing options, you need to be far-sighted. A decision that appears to be a simple yes or no choice may actually have more solutions underneath the surface. It can be helpful to brainstorm all possible solutions without ruling out any options prior to discussing the pros and cons of each solution.
  • Evaluate the possibilities: Consider asking the following questions:
    • How much time and effort will each option take?
    • What can we afford to do financially? Politically?
    • What options should we not pursue?
    • Are we missing important information?
    • What is the best option for us at this time?
    • What are some ways this might affect survivors?
    • Are there any potential unintended consequences of this decision?
  • Decide not to decide: There may be times when you will want to put off making a decision or avoid it entirely. When faced with a difficult choice and after careful deliberation, a decision not to decide can sometimes be the way to go (e.g., it may be better to wait until the team has more information or until members have more time to consider the recommendation further).

Decision-Making Strategies

Make sure to include time for all SART members to discuss the impact of potential decisions on their individual organizations before finalizing any decisions. Also consider the likely outcomes, possible outcomes, and unintended consequences of each decision. Keep in mind —

  • what are the purposes of the recommendation?
  • why should it be adopted?
  • what will change in both the immediate future and long term?
  • how would the SART know if a policy decision had the intended impact?
  • who or what is the target of the policy?
  • is the public as a whole affected? How? Directly or indirectly?
  • who else will the policy decision affect?
  • who disagrees with the decision and why?
  • who supports the decision and why?

Follow-Through on a Decision

Once a decision is made, it is essential to set a realistic timeframe and assign tasks and a method of follow-up to ensure the decision is being implemented. Groups easily lose momentum when they don’t see the results of their efforts or time being spent. [68] Having clearly defined assignments allows the group to ensure the implementation of the decision, especially long-term decisions, through turnover:

  • Set timeframe for completion.
  • Break the tasks associated with the decision into achievable portions.
  • Assign the portions to everyone on the SART.
  • Establish follow-up mechanisms (e.g., a calendar reminder).
  • Keep everyone informed of progress at regular intervals.
    • The SART coordinator could send a weekly email.
    • The team could use a task management website (Asana or another) to track activities.
  • Reassign tasks that are not completed within two weeks of the original deadline.
  • Reassign tasks of members who leave.
  • Celebrate the completion and follow-through of decisions.
  • Keep the agency you represent informed of your decisions, progress, and achievements.

Conflict Resolution

Despite the best intentions of SART members to cooperate with one another, disagreement among disciplines is inevitable. [69] Disagreements can be a sign your team is getting into important topics, or it could be a sign the team is stuck in a conflict. Conflict between SART members is well documented and SARTs should be prepared to manage disagreement when it arises. [70], [71], [72] Team members bring personal and professional experiences, agendas, beliefs, and perceptions into dialogues.

If you cannot resolve conflicts or disagreements, you could diminish your SART's effectiveness. [73] Teams that have effective ways to manage conflict are more cohesive and more successful. [74], [75] Only 18 percent of SARTs reported that they have formal procedures for resolving conflict. [76]

SARTs may want to consider creating a formal process for addressing conflict, which everyone agrees to follow. It may be easiest to engage SART members in developing a protocol for how concerns or conflicts will be addressed during a time when there is no conflict.

For example, if a conflict emerges during service provision, efforts should be made to address the concern directly and in private (e.g., not in front of the survivor). Another question could center around how to address conflict between SART members. For example, should conflicts be addressed outside of SART meetings, involving only those directly involved and their supervisors (if necessary), or should conflicts be brought to the full SART to discuss?

Some SARTs recommend the SART coordinator work directly with the individual members involved first and brings the outcome or solution to the attention of the SART, with permission of all the parties involved.

Tips for Conflict Resolution

The mix of different preferences, histories, communication patterns, and professional experiences in your SART is bound to cause disagreements. Several basic strategies can help you resolve conflicts:

  • Be open: Address problems openly rather than allowing them to go unresolved. Conflict avoidance is not conflict resolution.
  • Stay focused: Adhere to a decision-making philosophy grounded in what is best for the victim and what is in the best interest of the community.
  • Clarify interests: Encourage team members to explore the interests of opposing viewpoints and attempt to find common ground, all the while keeping the victim a priority concern. Return to the SART’s mission and shared goals as a common commitment that all members share. Also, help members recognize that each profession has a unique perspective and necessarily prioritizes actions differently because of those differing commitments. Taking time for each member to explain their own perspective can help everyone understand each other better.
  • Generate options: If common ground does not seem apparent, brainstorm ways to think in new and creative directions. For example, prosecutors may oppose the idea of evidence-based prosecution of cases involving adult sexual assault. On the other hand, forensic medical examiners and advocates may think justice is best served by developing evidence-based strategies proactively. Instead of stopping at an impasse of opposing viewpoints, develop evidence-based protocols based on exceptional cases. This strategy provides an opportunity for the team to work through issues proactively and give victims who are unable to testify full access to the criminal justice system.
  • Use meeting tools: Depending on where the conflict originates, agendas, meeting topic requests, and past meeting minutes can assist members in responding to a situation, referring to the historical record (meeting minutes) or prompting the concerned member to submit a meeting topic request, allowing other members the opportunity to come prepared to the discussion.
  • Find the middle ground: Encourage those with opposing opinions to identify the most attractive alternative recommendation while factoring in costs, time, outcomes, and compliance issues.
  • Be patient: Recognize that some problems do not lend themselves to immediate resolution.
  • Discuss scenarios: Engage SART members in discussions of potential scenarios that might provoke conflict or disagreement in order to identify issues where there is not consensus and to engage the group in an analysis of how the group’s mission and goals can guide members’ actions should such an example arise. Discussing a hypothetical situation is often not as emotionally charged, as SART members are less likely to feel they need to defend their actions.
  • Prevent conflicts: Many SARTs find that building relationships between SART members helps reduce the likelihood of conflicts emerging and promotes a sense of mutual respect that helps ease conflicts when they do happen. Consider organizing opportunities for SART members to interact informally and get to know each other as individuals, not just as representatives of their professions.

Evaluate the Cause of Conflict

To help overcome problematic disagreements, the following chart can help you evaluate the underlying causes and solutions: [77]

Reason for Disagreement

Potential Underlying Cause

Possible Solutions

Need more information

Repeated requests for additional detail could signal resistance rather than a need for more detail.

Find out what level of detail is needed to make a decision.

Record the questions or specific details the SART would like more information on in the minutes. Ask the notetaker to read their description back to the participants for accuracy.

Assign a SART member the task of acquiring that information and assign a deadline.

Follow up with that member prior to their deadline and the next meeting.

Too many details

During discussions, SART members may offer too many details that distract from or derail discussions.

Ask individuals what is the most important issue to address, and focus on that issue.

Set time limits on SART members’ contributions to discussions to ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak and allow folks a second opportunity once everyone has spoken.

Not enough time

Some team members may resist coming to a decision because there is not enough time for discussion. Although time is often a problem, a preoccupation with it can signal resistance.

Ask the SART which topic should be given priority.

Ask the SART if they would like more time or if they are ready to vote.

Ask the SART if they would like more time during the current meeting or if they would like the item on a future meeting agenda.

Use the SART’s preferred decision-making method to decide to vote or wait.

Not practical

Members may feel the process of reaching consensus never works because SART members have different roles and responsibilities that cannot be negotiated.

Ask if there are important issues that have been overlooked.

Confusion

An inability to understand an issue under discussion can be a way to block the process.

Clarify whether the confusion is about the issues or the process.

Silence

Silence among team members does not imply agreement; it can be a sign the process is not working and that members are refusing to participate.

Encourage everyone to share his or her ideas and opinions.

Check in with team members, especially if there is a rapid change in behavior — is that team member okay?

Follow up with members who are constantly or unusually quiet during meetings to ensure the process is working for them.

Silence or changes in behavior may be a sign it is time to discuss and change a process.

Moralizing

When discussing controversial topics, team members may start to lecture, which can offend and stifle others.

When members of the group are locked in an "either/or" conflict, calling for a "third way" that bridges and blends opposing viewpoints can be helpful.

Bring in an external facilitator for difficult discussions.

Introduce a training on the topic that appears to be the challenge that may introduce a new framework and language for SART members to use during discussions.

Develop a code word for “ready to move on,” such as the ELMO method.

Push for solutions

Some members may complain that the ideas being discussed are impossible or may demand solutions rather than ideas. This could be about what members are unwilling to do rather than what cannot be done.

Reframing, or providing another perspective, can often help individuals move forward.

Using the agenda to set clear expectations around time and topic can be helpful so members know when it is time to discuss the scope of the problem, brainstorm solutions, vote on solutions, and implement those solutions.

Clearly laying out a timeframe for discussion and decisions can help balance the needs of members who are more action oriented with those who are more process oriented.

Team member perpetuating rape myths

Some members may be continuing to develop their understanding of sexual violence and use blaming language

SART members can hold one another accountable during meetings.

SARTs can schedule additional trainings so no one member is singled out.

If this is not an isolated incident for that individual, SARTs may want to address this with their supervisor or request a new team member.

Meeting Follow-Up

Consistent follow-up from SART meetings is important to maintain member participation in team meetings. In one study, only 28.2 percent of SARTs reported that they have a mechanism for ensuring that SART members are accountable for completing tasks. [78] Follow-up from SART meetings also supports maintaining member participation in team meetings. [79] Reviewing next steps or specific action items at the end of meetings may be helpful to ensure accountability, completion, and engagement.

When creating the team’s process for completing tasks between meetings, it is important to talk about three things: Is the task reasonable to accomplish in this way and in this timeframe? What will you do if you cannot get the work done as agreed upon? Who or what process will check in on the member or members responsible for the task?

Recognize the reality that all team members are busy people who are often required to respond to immediate requests for service. At times, personal and professional situations may make it impossible to complete a task. If this happens, it is important that members know they can inform the team of their situation. If people do not feel safe to say this, members may end up skipping meetings to avoid facing the team or being assigned tasks to do as a SART member.

Below are some practice activities: [80]

  • The facilitator or another designated individual promptly sends out meeting minutes with clear, actionable items to the SART. Minutes should be easy to read with action items clearly noted (for example, with bold or colored type).
  • Individual SART members take responsibility to ensure that important information from the meeting is shared with all relevant members of the agency they represent. This may be as simple as distributing a memo with key information to colleagues or providing more in-depth cross-training to ensure that relevant personnel are fully informed about SART and member agencies.
  • Establish a procedure for following up on any tasks individuals were assigned during the meeting. Designate someone to contact individuals about tasks. For example, the facilitator may make phone calls or send emails to anyone who was assigned a task to confirm that they understand the task and have the resources necessary to complete the task. An email can be sent a week or two prior to the next meeting to remind members of the tasks they were assigned.
  • Provide periodic reports to community stakeholders such as a local board of health, mayor, county commissioners, supervisors, state and municipal agencies, and policy-makers.

Keep the Momentum

SARTs may periodically struggle to keep up the momentum of team meetings, particularly when the team is at an impasse. Reasons for stagnation can include: losing momentum after significant success, unclear goals, inconsistent leadership, and high turnover.

Momentum can also be lost when SART members feel their system has improved its response to sexual assault. If the team created protocols and guidelines, team members may be tempted to consider their real work done, not understanding that the essential goal of establishing guidelines is to monitor and evaluate the sexual assault response over time. [81]

As teams reach goals, they can consider expanding membership to include new sectors of the community that can add vitality and new direction to the group. SARTs can seek training during voids or post on the SART listserv to ask what is trending or seek new resources and meaningful topics.

SARTs can plan for both long- and short-term goals, restructure how and when meetings are held, or form workgroups to address specific issues or projects. Sometimes planning for a short break from meetings after significant work will be achieved or during a particularly busy period in the life of member agencies can help sustain energy. Sometimes, when it is difficult to maintain momentum, SARTs must dissolve entirely or re-form as a cohesive working group around a specific task, such as developing protocol or improving referrals to member agencies, in order to achieve specific goals. SARTs that dissolve may re-form at a later time or use the momentum from the specific task to work out the problems that detracted from momentum.

SARTs can offset the challenge of maintaining momentum by rotating administrative responsibilities (e.g., taking meeting minutes, facilitating team discussions) and creating action plans so responsibilities do not fall on any one person or agency. Ultimately, however, having a designated SART coordinator who is funded specifically for this task can do much to ensure meetings stay focused and productive.

Each of these challenges is addressed in specific sections of the SART Toolkit. For additional information on maintaining momentum, see the SART Sustainability section in the SART Toolkit.

Multidisciplinary Collaboration and Meeting Resources

Collaboration: A Training Curriculum to Enhance the Effectiveness of Criminal Justice Teams: Instructional Manual (PDF, 345 pages)

This curriculum from the State Justice Institute assists multidisciplinary criminal justice teams in establishing or enhancing collaborative relationships. All teams can benefit from this curriculum, whether newly formed or firmly established. The manual includes information on team values, vision, problem identification, roles and responsibilities, concurrent discussion groups, group dynamics, team and project life cycles, goals, objectives, and critical work activities.

Collaboration Toolkit: How to Build, Fix, and Sustain Productive Partnerships (PDF, 121 pages)

The Collaboration Toolkit from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and Circle Solutions Inc. identifies nine components of a successful collaboration: stakeholders with a vested interest in the issue, trust among and between the partners, a shared vision and common goals, expertise among partners to solve community problems, teamwork strategies, open communication, motivated partners, sufficient means to implement and sustain the collaborative effort, and an action plan. As your SART develops and matures, revisit each component to assess the status of the collaboration.

Community Organizational Assessment Tool

This guide from the University of Wisconsin Extension helps guide discussions about how a team is functioning. Although the questions are structured for nonprofit board members, the form can be easily adapted for use by SARTs.

Community Tool Box Chapter 1. Conducting Effective Meetings

This section of the Community Tool Box addresses effective meetings, including their importance, how to run them, and how to work with difficult group members.

Facilitation Skills for Managers

This course by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) trains managers who run meetings or lead task groups. The modules cover a range of topics, including forming groups, handling challenges, and completing the work.

Group Facilitation Skills for Trainers

This course by the NIC helps experienced trainers who want to develop group participation and discussion skills. The material includes information on learning behaviors, facilitation strategies, and dealing with conflict.

List of Organizational Assessments Available Online (PDF, 2 pages)

The tools listed on this form developed by the Compassion Capital Fund of the National Resource Center (NRC) cover a wide range in both their level of complexity and the amount of time required to complete them. When choosing any organizational assessment tool, consider the resources it will take to conduct the assessment and analyze the data.

Organizational Self-Assessments

The Council of Nonprofits provides a number of tools, including self-assessment tools, self-assessments for nonprofit boards, executive directors, organizations, organizational capacity, and infrastructure. The goal of assessments is to collect data that can help the nonprofit evaluate whether or not it is making progress toward various goals, including whether the nonprofit can demonstrate that it is making progress advancing its mission.

The Role of Facilitators and Staff in Supporting Collaborative Teams (Microsoft Word, 6 pages)

This resource by the National Institute of Corrections describes the skills and characteristics of effective facilitators, including the importance of helping to establish direction for the team, maximizing the contribution of all members, creating a team process that is efficient and focused on outcomes, keeping an accurate record of team members' ideas and decisions, and maintaining an environment that allows members to work productively and collaboratively.

Strategies for Building Effective Work Teams, Participant's Manual (PDF, 161 pages)

This manual from the National Institute of Corrections covers critical elements of teamwork and stages of team development. The manual provides ways to assess organizational and individual readiness for developing and using work teams, developing high-performance work teams, implementing interventions to enhance team productivity, and creating strategies to overcome barriers to team development.

Team Readiness Assessment Survey (PDF, 3 pages)

This survey developed by the Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI) at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) can be used to assess a multidisciplinary team’s readiness to collaborate. There is no expectation that any team would be fully ready in each of these areas, so responses should reflect the current reality. This survey can be used to assess where agencies may need more information, overall interest and understanding of the process, communication gaps, information gaps, and the current state of collaboration.

Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory

This free tool by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation helps teams assess how your collaboration is doing on 20 research-tested success factors. The Factors inventory takes about 15 minutes to complete. It can be distributed to a small group of leaders in the collaborative, during a general meeting, or via mail to all members for the most complete picture.

Conducting Case Reviews

Choosing to conduct case reviews is an important decision for a SART. [82] Routine case reviews are one of the most effective tools for SART members to improve their team process, function, and outcomes. SARTs that engage in regular case reviews as part of their work tend to rate themselves as more effective than those that do not. [83]

Purpose of Case Reviews

SARTs conduct case reviews to improve the victim-centered response to sexual assault by —

  • identifying excellent SART responses: Case reviews ideally start with successful case responses. This reflects a balanced, strengths-based approach that helps the team build on victim-centered responses.
  • developing problem-solving techniques for difficult cases: Applying objective problem-solving skills to complicated cases can generate creative solutions and lead to system adjustments to address specific issues or problem areas.
  • discussing delivery of services: Using case reviews to evaluate service delivery can foster better collaboration and a more victim-centered response.
  • reviewing evaluation data: SARTs can use evaluation information to monitor and track cases from initial contact through case closure. By examining data and feedback, a SART can identify areas for improvement and help ensure quality responses.
  • identifying risk factors: SARTs can identify and evaluate sexual assault trends during case reviews by asking, "What can we do to prevent another sexual assault?" By identifying sexual assault trends and offenders' modes of operation, the SART can build a springboard for preventing sexual assault and for developing intervention strategies, educational opportunities, and public awareness campaigns to increase public safety and reduce victimization. [84]
  • evaluating the implementation of new policies or practices: SARTs can conduct case reviews to identify if the new polices are in effect, if they are working, and how to address roadblocks to their implementation or celebrate successful outcomes.

Ready for Case Review?

SARTs considering case review should consider their team’s readiness and understand the real consequences of attempting to perform case review before proper preparations. Some SARTs begin case review prematurely, without establishing the appropriate foundation of trust and collaboration among members. This can lead to dysfunction, stagnation, or the dissolution of the SART. Negative effects on relationships may take years to repair. Although routine case review is an effective tool, a SART needs to determine if and when case review is a good fit by periodically assessing the team’s readiness. Some teams develop relationships through the process of case review, especially when teams are able to focus their attention on serving victims.

SARTs considering case review should begin by asking —

  • why are we doing case review?
  • why are we doing it now?
  • what are we trying to accomplish?
  • what are the different avenues for trying to accomplish that?
  • what kind of case review will accomplish that goal?
  • can we accomplish that goal without sharing victim information?

Readiness is directly related to a firm understanding that case review involves difficult conversations intended to uncover mistakes, problems, and areas of inefficiency in systems — not with individuals — to improve processes. Readiness is also related to identifying and incorporating best practices into one’s work. SARTs can build on others’ success or identify their own successes and build systems that preserve and encourage those, especially if they are not routinely practiced.

The assessment tool included in the appendix of What Can We Talk About? A Guidebook for How Sexual Assault Response Teams Discuss Sexual Assault [85] will provide SARTs with a clear indication of where to focus their efforts when determining if they should prepare for, begin, or stop a case review.

Case Selections

Depending on caseloads and your SART's protocols or guidelines, the following considerations can guide the selection of cases to review:

  • Open or closed cases: Some SARTs, because of state regulations or protocols, only review cases that are not or will not be in civil or criminal litigation. Other jurisdictions engage in active case management and review open cases for a specific purpose, such as addressing gaps in victim services, reviewing the investigation, or seeking to understand charging decisions.
  • Types of sexual assault: Some jurisdictions review particular types of cases (stranger, non-stranger, or drug- and alcohol-facilitated assaults). Other teams review complex cases or closed cases to evaluate the response. Still other jurisdictions prefer to consider all current cases for review.
  • How often SARTs meet: Case review decisions can also be based on how often — and how long — teams are willing to meet. Teams may meet to review cases monthly, bimonthly, or on an as-needed basis. Some SARTs only review cases on an emergency basis. Others review cases only as needed (i.e., highly complex cases). Some teams schedule case reviews during their regular team meetings. The timing of reviews will depend in part on how many sexual assaults occur in your jurisdiction.
  • Case scenarios: SARTs that cannot or choose not to review their own cases may use case scenarios where they engage in all the tasks associated with case review.

Teams that conduct a case review only when a significant concern arises may find themselves discussing issues in highly charged situations. It is best practice for SARTs to hold regularly scheduled case reviews. SARTs that practice case review around routine situations can develop a habit of conducting case review, addressing concerns, and identifying potential issues before they become problematic and have lasting negative implications for victims, teams, and the community.

Teams can also review cases that go well. It is essential to review cases that go well, both to celebrate successes and to identify why they were successful. SARTs can start case review with positive cases to build relationships and warm up to the process of case review. SARTs can also use positive cases to create or build momentum for future SART work. SARTs might identify aspects of their work they would like to evaluate to further understand and document which specifics are contributing to the positive outcome. See the Evaluation section of the SART Toolkit for more information.

How to Do a Case Review

SARTs conduct case reviews in a variety of ways. What is essential to all is that they respect victims’ privacy by following all laws regarding victims’ information, and that they are held with a clear purpose and conducted according to a consistent format. Case review offers an opportunity for teamwork and sets the stage to promote team development and improve process outcomes. The focus should be on consistent adherence to a common standard, as laid out in the protocol, rather than blaming any individual for certain behavior.

To conduct a case review on an open case, SARTs are required to have informed consent and releases of information. [86] SARTs should also read Challenges for Prosecutors: Brady Rule in the SART Toolkit if conducting open case review.

The Wisconsin Adult Sexual Assault Response Team Protocol includes a Case Review Release of Information, Case Review Confidentiality Form, and SART Case Review overview. These documents may be helpful in developing consistent formats for case review.

In addition, the one-hour webinar SART Case Review [87], sponsored by International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) and presented by Linda E. Ledray, RN, SANE-A, Ph.D., FAAN, and the attached slides provide more information on case review.

To help review system-wide responses that support prevention and the best possible outcomes for victims, the Case Review Protocol of the NH DOC PREA SART TEAM provides an in-depth outline on how to conduct a case review and protect victim confidentiality.

Other resources for case review in the SART Toolkit include the following resources:

  • Case Scenarios on Ethics (PDF, 2 pages)

The following chart provides examples of feedback that may come out of a case review. These examples address protocol concerns that each team member may provide to others participating in your SART.

SART Member

Protocol-Focused Feedback

Advocate

Timeliness of medical and forensic exam.

Contraceptives offered to the victim.

Law enforcement present, or not, for the victim statement (in accordance with individual protocol).

Number of referrals provided by dispatchers, sexual assault forensic examiners, reporting officers, sex crimes detectives, and prosecution.

Payment provided for the medical and forensic exam.

Forensic Laboratory Personnel

Consistency of evidence collection with victim statement.

Proper chain of custody followed, in accordance with the SART-specific protocol.

Proper packaging and transfer of evidence, in accordance with protocol.

Quality of evidence submitted by the sexual assault forensic examiner.

Clear documentation of findings for forensic analysis and interpretation.

Law Enforcement Official

Treatment of the victim at the hospital, during joint interviews (if applicable), and during detective interviews when advocates attend, plus feedback on prosecutors' charging decisions.

Use of “start by believing” interview policy.

Use of trauma-informed interview techniques, in accordance with protocol.

Number of referrals provided to victims by law enforcement.

Instances of victim-blaming.

Presence of advocate during interview.

Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner

Treatment of the victim by law enforcement officers, advocates, and prosecutors.

Appropriate payment provided for the medical forensic exam according to SART Protocol and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Use of appropriate consistent medical documentation regarding the patient’s medical history.

Proper chain of custody followed with evidence collected in accordance with the SART Protocol.

Advocates’ timely arrival and number of referrals offered, in accordance with the protocol.

Advocates providing victims with accurate information and empowering victims to make their own decisions.

Advocates following confidentiality policies and procedures.

Prosecutor

All of the above.

Advocate’s presence at court and ability to provide accurate information to victims.

Appropriate, clear documentation by medical and forensic professional, forensic crime lab, and law enforcement.

Effective Case Review

At each case review, team members should —

  • ensure that any and all necessary legally binding releases of information have been signed;
  • identify any mandatory reporters in the room so all those present are aware of what information may trigger a mandatory report;
  • identify the facilitator and their role as a participant or facilitator;
  • set an agenda or follow a case review format;
  • review any team agreements related to constructive feedback, disagreements, and decision-making processes; and
  • identify what kind of review is taking place and the intention of the case review.
    • Is this active case management on an open case so the SART can come together to best serve the victim and hold the offender accountable?
    • Is this a closed case review so the SART can analyze a case from start to finish to ensure the protocol was followed?
    • Is this a systems consultation so the SART can analyze opportunities to improve the overall system response?
    • Is this an emergency case review because something went poorly and needs immediate attention?
    • Is this a random case review because there are/were unusual circumstances the team needs to discuss?
    • Is this a review of a case that went well?

Language and Bias

One essential aspect for team members who are responding to victims is identifying and preventing gender bias, a form of discrimination. Explicit (conscious) and implicit (unconscious) biases about gender roles and sexual assault exist in our culture, in individuals, and in agencies of all professions. These ideas and stereotypes undermine our ability to effectively respond to sexual assault cases.

Gender biases are entrenched in the systems that we rely on for justice. Gender bias can also have a real and immediate effect on the safety of individual victims [88] and interfere with holding offenders accountable. [89] Gender bias may also affect relationships within SARTs and between SART members.

Speaking of policing practices, the DOJ notes, “Gender bias … is a form of discrimination that may result in LEAs [law enforcement agencies] providing less protection to certain victims on the basis of gender, failing to respond to crimes that disproportionately harm people of a particular gender or offering reduced or less robust services due to a reliance on gender stereotypes.” [90]

SARTs should be aware of gender biases that exist in individuals, communities, and agencies. Gender bias can be addressed through training and using standard guidelines and protocol [91] with everyone involved in supporting victims, responding to cases, or holding perpetrators accountable — including prosecutors and judges. A number of resources are available, with specific recommendations for law enforcement and courts, [92] that SARTs can refer to for specifics to address gender bias in their communities.

Highlighting bias about gender roles and sexual assault in this section is in no way intended to minimize the other pervasive and equally harmful forms of bias that exist. Your SART may have helpful structures in place around gender bias or another traditionally disadvantaged group, or you may just be getting started.

Gender Fairness in the Courts: Action in the New Millennium provides specific examples for teams attempting to address multiple forms of bias without losing momentum or focus.

Language and Bias in Case Review

When designing a case review, SARTs can choose to use pseudonyms to discuss case scenarios. There is power in language, both in the words we choose and the effect on listeners. [93] SARTs, especially those seeking to expand their understanding of diverse communities, are encouraged to assign gender-neutral names and not include an individual’s race, income level, or sexual orientation in their initial assessment of cases. This allows the team to focus on the crime that took place.

However, SARTs may find it is important to discuss these factors, as they often play an important role in the crime, or in a victim’s ability to report, or how systems respond. Some teams may see a shift in response to certain factors, but not others. Examining the system response to particular factors may allow individual members and teams to recognize and identify inherent biases that may be present. Engaging in conversations around these topics can be difficult. Yet by providing a constructive format for these discussions, your SART allows team members to increase their awareness, understand how their own responses are affected by different factors, and hold themselves accountable to address disparities in the ways they treat different victims or offenders.

Practicing gender-neutral language during case review also prepares your SART for success when working with and documenting sexual assaults in which the victim or perpetrator is non-gender conforming.

After a case review, the SART promotes accountability by tracking any identified issues, successes, and challenges. Some states designate routine feedback and quality control forms for every case, which are submitted to the SART coordinator. [94] In other states, SARTs facilitate accountability by providing a report to government officials, funders, or other stakeholders.

Victim surveys are an excellent means of fostering accountability, as they allow victims to rate and comment on each aspect of the SART's response (e.g., patrol officer, detective, dispatch, medical team, rape crisis center, prosecutor, health care).

Peer evaluations allow SART members to provide feedback on services provided to victims by their colleagues. Peer evaluations should focus on adherence to the SART protocol and the memorandum of understanding (MOU), rather than perception of arbitrary factors. Focusing on actionable items allows SARTs to develop concrete improvements as members consistently work to achieve the guidelines agreed to in the protocol.

Gender Bias and Language Use Resources

Gender Bias in Sexual Assault Response and Investigation: Part 1 (PDF, 14 pages)

This End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) training bulletin is the first in a series designed to explore the phenomenon of gender bias, both explicit and implicit, and the resulting stereotypes and attitudes that can influence the professional response to, and investigation of, sexual assault.

Gender Bias in Sexual Assault Response and Investigation: Part 2 (PDF, 16 pages)

This training bulletin from EVAWI discusses the relationship between gender bias and both victim selection at the time of the assault and victim-blaming following the assault.

Gender Bias in Sexual Assault Response and Investigation: Part 3 (PDF, 19 pages)

This training bulletin from EVAWI covers the connection between gender bias and false report designations.

Guidelines for Gender-Fair Use of Language

This guide from the National Council of Teachers of English includes recommendations on using gender-neutral, or gender-fair, language. SART members can put these recommendations into action during a case review to protect and honor the victim’s identity.

Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (PDF, 26 pages)

This guidance from the DOJ is aimed at improving law enforcement’s response to allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence by identifying and preventing gender bias in policing.

Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

This website, updated and maintained by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, provides a list of current resources, grants, and projects related to gender bias in law enforcement response.

The Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Violence: Sexual Violence & Accountability Project Working Paper Series (PDF, 71 pages)

This document from the Human Rights Center University of California Berkeley addresses specific opportunities to address gender bias in critical aspects of receiving a report and criminal justice proceedings.

Ten Ways to Avoid Gender Bias

This brief article from Daily Writing Tips lists strategies for reaching gender neutrality in writing.

Training Bulletin: Words Matter (PDF, 5 pages)

This training bulletin from EVAWI includes alternative ways to discuss sexual assault, such as how to describe sexual acts, how to refer to the perpetrator or victim, and the use of active language.

Victim Recantations: Addressing Gender Bias in Sexual Assault Response and Investigation (PDF, 15 pages)

This training bulletin from EVAWI discusses how gender bias can impact victim recantation in sexual assault cases.

Positive Outcomes of Case Review

Routine case review offers many benefits, including monitoring and improving the team process and the quality of care provided to victims. Homing in on specific areas of interest gathered from case review could lead to improved outcomes for victims, teams, and processes.

Victim outcomes include —

  • improving delivery of services to victims and their family, friends, and colleagues.

    • identifying the need for enhanced service delivery.
    • facilitating interagency referral protocols to ensure service delivery.
  • identifying and advocating for needed changes in legislation, policy, and practices and expanded efforts in preventing sexual assault.
    • learning from reviews to understand how to prevent a similar sexual assault in the future.
    • developing recommendations as a catalyst for community action.
  • increasing public awareness and advocacy for issues that affect the health and safety of victims of sexual assault.
    • aggregating information from reviews that, when presented to the public, can be transformed into opportunities for education and advocacy.
  • identifying consistent barriers for victims, including myths or other misinformation about sexual assault and empowering SARTs to address those myths internally and through community education and prevention efforts.

Team outcomes include —

  • improving communication and linkages among local and state agencies and enhancing coordination of efforts.

    • improving interagency cooperation and coordination during and after meetings.
    • facilitating valuable cross-discipline learning and strategizing.

Process outcomes include —

  • helping ensure uniform, consistent victim-centered responses.

    • keeping team members informed about sexual assault cases and can be beneficial for investigations, victim services, and prevention.
    • providing more complete information that may help with criminal or civil justice objectives.
    • leading to modifications to responses that are tailored to specific cases.
  • improving agency responses in the investigation of sexual assault.
    • identifying ways to better conduct and coordinate investigations and resources.
    • Potentially leading to new policies and procedures.
  • identifying significant risk factors and trends in sexual assault.
    • allowing for a broad perspective related to sexual assault, enabling the medical, social, behavioral, and environmental risks to be identified and more easily addressed.

Case Review Resources

Adult Sexual Assault Response Team Protocol (PDF, 75 pages)

This protocol developed by the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance has included in the appendix an example of a Case Review Release of Information (p. 64), Case Review Confidentiality Form (p. 65), and SART Case Review (pp. 66-69).

Attorney General Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault (PDF, 22 pages)

This resource from New Jersey offers guidelines for compassionate and quality services to victims of sexual assault from SARTs.

Case File Review Template (PDF, 1 page)

This tool from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership by the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault provides criteria for case review.

Case Review: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, 5 pages)

This is a compilation of questions by the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) about case review and might prove an easy reference for SARTs engaged in case review or discussing establishing case review. SARTs can send this to members prior to a meeting on case review so everyone has a shared basis of information coming into the discussion.

Case Review Protocol of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) SART Team (Microsoft Word, 8 pages)

This document by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections provides a detailed outline on how to conduct case reviews.

Racine County SART Case Review (PDF, 4 pages)

This resource from the Wisconsin Adult Sexual Assault Response Team Protocol provides an example of a case review form.

Racine County SART Case Review Release (PDF, 2 pages)

SARTs can use this example case review release from the Wisconsin Adult Sexual Assault Response Team Protocol to develop their own release forms.

Racine County Sexual Assault Response Team Case Review Confidentiality Form (PDF, 2 pages)

This resource from the Wisconsin Adult Sexual Assault Response Team Protocol serves as an example of a case review confidentiality form.

SART Case Review (presentation)

This webinar from the International Association of Forensic Nurses SAFE-TA explains the difference between SANE and SART peer review as well as the benefits and barriers to case review.

SART Case Review Release (PDF, 1 page)

This sample form from SAFEta allows a client to provide permission for their case to be discussed at a SART meeting.

SART Case Review Webinar (1:06 hour webinar)

This webinar by SAFEta is a practical guide for the case review process from the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN).

Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Functioning and Effectiveness (PDF, 73 pages)

This resource includes a collection of data from the National SART Project from 2010-2012 assessing the effectiveness of SARTs.

Sustaining a Coordinated Community Response: Sexual Assault Response and Resource Teams (SARRT) (PDF, 129 pages)

This End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) training module examines ways to establish, expand, and sustain a SART.

Systems Consultation (Microsoft Word, 4 pages)

This document generated by the Sexual Assault Interagency Council and other experts walks teams through systems consultation and can be adapted to meet local needs and processes.

Tabletop Training Case Scenarios (PDF, 6 pages)

These sample scenarios from the Rensselaer County SART provide SARTs with an opportunity to practice case review.

Talking About Gender & Sexuality Sexual Violence & Individuals who Identify as LGBTQ (PDF, 12 pages)

The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) explores the way language influences our ability to serve individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ).

Ten Ways to Avoid Gender Bias

This brief article from Daily Writing Tips lists strategies for reaching gender neutrality in writing.

What Can We Talk About? (PDF, 24 pages)

This guidebook from the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault covers how SARTs discuss sexual assault cases.

SART Protocol

SART protocols are designed to give clear guidelines to all providers and systems that respond to sexual assault. SART protocols define agreements between team members about how core responders will provide services to victims of sexual assault, and their roles and responsibilities. [95] Protocols formalize these roles and responsibilities, clarify expectations between SART members, and provide a written record of agreed standards of services.

Developing an effective protocol requires a coordinated effort to negotiate, develop, and implement standards that govern coordinated services. Ongoing evaluation and revision of protocols serve to improve and evaluate the effectiveness of services provided to victims within a community.

What Is a Protocol?

Protocols are written guidelines for professionals to follow when responding to sexual assault victims. The procedures responders follow when working with victims of sexual assault make up the protocol practice; the written format is the protocol document. Therefore, protocols are both a process and a written document.

Protocols —

  • establish expectations and standards for providers in an agency or discipline (law enforcement, advocacy, health care providers, etc.) to respond to victims of sexual assault;
  • provide guidelines for how SART members coordinate services and interact with other members of the team; and
  • formalize roles and responsibilities for each agency or discipline on the SART.

Protocols are most effective when created at the local level with representatives from all SART agencies collaborating from the development of initial drafts, through the final development process, and during revisions. SARTs engage to adapt best practice, integrate the victim experience, determine individual agencies’ obligations, and collaborate on all aspects of response. This commitment is typically formalized in an MOU.

Issues to Consider When Creating a Protocol

Using data to inform planning can be useful for creating or expanding SARTs and developing protocols. Conducting a community needs assessment helps determine currently available resources and community factors. [96]

The assessment can help better understand —

  • currently available services (medical, legal, military, educational, tribal, advocacy, etc.),
  • the frequency of sexual assault in a jurisdiction,
  • where it tends to occur,
  • victim demographics, and
  • perpetrators’ modes of operation (MO).

Understanding the community needs and demographics is a first step for creating benchmarks to evaluate the effectiveness of SART responses over time. [97]

Protocol should be responsive and sensitive to the realities of the community’s vulnerable populations (homeless youth, undocumented individuals, people with disabilities, etc.). Developing protocols that respond to the most vulnerable populations allows the team to enhance the inherent strengths in its response while addressing the gaps and barriers to how victims access services and experience systems, including the criminal justice process.

For more information, refer to the Community Needs Assessment section of the SART Toolkit.

In developing protocol, SARTs create and use response standards that are consistent, comprehensive, coordinated, continuous, and community-specific.

Consistent

“Are victims experiencing the same approach from agency responders?”

  • All SART agencies use the same language and terminology for terms and concepts that affect shared work (e.g., victim-centered, anonymous report, converted report). Developing a common language happens through the collaborative process and does not take away from discipline-specific terminology, such as a medical provider referring to a victim as a “patient.”
  • SARTs are informed by collective response principles that create a common vision for their response to victims. Even with different roles and tasks, what are the values and beliefs that all team members share?
  • All responders in SART agencies adhere to the same general response practices, outlined in protocol. Protocols also include clarity between mission and practice, outlining how SART members can follow consistent standards in response to victims. SARTs may also need flexibility meeting those standards in order to be victim-centered, as victim needs may be diverse and unique.

Comprehensive

“Is our response informed — by practice, victims, and the realities of sexual assault?”

  • Protocol is developed through the collaboration of SART member agencies, allowing each discipline’s response to be informed by the perspectives and responses of other disciplines. This creates a more complete picture of opportunities for coordinating and addressing response gaps.
  • The dynamics of sexual assault should be a central basis from which SARTs develop protocol. Protocol reflects the realities of how sexual assault occurs and is responded to, and SARTs must be intentional about integrating this into the response (e.g., alcohol is used to create vulnerability and discredit victims [98] and the majority of sexual violence cases are non-stranger assaults [99]).
  • Victims — those who have engaged with the systems’ response and those who have not — are essential for grounding each discipline’s response in the experiences of the people the protocol is meant to serve. Data does not represent the full scope of the issue on its own; it can often miss the nuances of how victims experience their trauma and the response. SARTs must find ways to inform their work with the narratives of victims.

Coordinated

“Are we organizing our response in a way that is unified for responders and supportive for victims?

  • SART member agencies identify ways to use the information they have, make referrals, and cooperate with one another to continually improve and create a seamless response for victims.
  • Protocol helps formalize working relationships by describing roles and responsibilities and defining the ways agencies can share and exchange resources and information.

Continuous

“Are we reviewing the impact of our response — on victims and in our agencies — in an ongoing manner?”

  • Protocol serves as a way to be accountable to victims and the community; it provides a baseline measure for the response. To remain relevant to current conditions, protocol must be monitored for effectiveness and revised based on how well it is or is not working.
  • SART member agencies measure the ways victims are impacted by their response and revise protocols to enhance successful elements while addressing gaps and barriers.
  • SARTs also review how their response has affected responders and agency operations, making changes where needed to increase effectiveness.
  • Protocol is not created once and used permanently. Periodically evaluating and updating the protocol allows SARTs to make ongoing improvements in the response to victims. This allows the SART to more easily incorporate changes in laws and policies into protocol and react to changes in the community (turnover, transition, resource changes, etc.). For more information, see the Evaluation section of the SART Toolkit.

Community-specific

“Is our response defined by and designed for the community where it will be used?”

  • Communities are unique in geography, population, and demographics; because of this, there are differences in resources, culture, and capacity from place to place. This means there is no “universal fix” or “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to protocol. For more information, see the Protocol Development section of the SART Toolkit.
  • Protocol must account for the various cultural groups and marginalized populations that exist in the community, such as Latin@/x and LGBTQ. For more information, see the SART Membership section of the SART Toolkit. These needs are identified before the protocol is developed so that it is culturally responsive, and responders are prepared to address the unique needs of different groups.
  • SARTs must always develop protocols that are specific to the area they serve so that protocols are practical and relevant. In doing this, the SART will have more buy-in and better cooperation and develop patterns of communication around problem solving together.

A protocol is not a stand-alone document or process, but rather an ongoing and evolving document that requires the commitment of SART members to engage in a collaborative process to maintain protocols reflective of best practice standards and the changing needs of your community. SARTs regularly evaluate practices based on the protocol to identify areas that need further attention or support. Regularly scheduled protocol review and updates ensure protocols reflect reality, incorporate current practice standards, and are accurately reflected and well aligned with the needs of the community and the mission and vision of the SART.

Once SARTs establish and formalize protocols, teams work to inform and educate members of the SART to ensure practice consistently matches the outlined expectations. SART meetings provide an opportunity to continually revise and evaluate the protocol. For more information, see the Protocol Implementation section of the SART Toolkit.

Ultimately, developed protocols provide a baseline for how service providers respond to victims and are a mechanism to improve responses to victims and promote outcomes that support victims and hold offenders accountable.

The Importance of SART Protocol

The development of protocol has many advantages. SARTs can define a response that is customized to their community’s structure and needs. It also allows your SART to build a response appropriate for the unique needs of your community, particularly those who are marginalized.

There are many benefits of protocol development for SARTs:

  • Defines roles and relationships. Protocols are developed through dialogue among SART members and agencies. This process promotes understanding of the roles of responders and fosters working relationships. Members identify the connections and opportunities to coordinate their work and avoid duplication in roles.
  • Improves system performance. By identifying gaps and strengths in the current response, SARTs can develop protocols that capitalize on community strengths and address existing barriers to victim services. This promotes a streamlined response for individual agencies and the system as a whole.
  • Serves as a set of response guidelines. SART member agencies agree to implement, use, and constantly strive to achieve these guidelines. Protocols provide a benchmark against which to measure consistency of implementation, gaps in training, and areas for improvement.
  • Provides a benchmark for community feedback through the community assessment. Having a documented community needs assessment provides an accountability measure, allowing SARTs to evaluate their service delivery against an objective, transparent standard. SARTs can examine their response, determine whether their interventions are achieving the desired outcomes, and make appropriate protocol revisions.
  • Promotes collaboration between SART agencies. A key component in protocol is defining how the work of SART member agencies intersect and how they can better coordinate their response to victims. The response that is developed comes out of a collaborative process, and protocol is the product of communication and negotiation toward shared outcomes. [100]
  • Lasts over time and transition. Protocol is designed to be implemented throughout SART agencies and become an inherent part of those systems. By documenting the response in the form of protocol, new response personnel in any of the SART agencies can adopt practices that are consistent with the rest of their agency. The protocol endures through turnover and organizational transition because practices have been institutionalized.

A protocol is an evolving document and exists as part of continued system improvement. With changes in laws, policies, and research — as well as community development and social change — protocols must adapt to reflect those changes. SARTs engage in a continuous process of assessment, change-making, and measuring change to ensure protocols remain current and reflect the realities of their community and the victim experience.

Protocol and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs)

An MOU is an official agreement that SART agencies sign as a commitment to participate in a collaborative process with other agencies. MOUs serve as formal and binding agreements that solidify the relationship between agencies and hold them accountable for participation in the collaborative process. One outcome of the collaborative process is protocol.

MOUs describe SART member agencies’ contributions to working with their SART partners in developing, adopting, and implementing protocol. They also outline members’ roles in that process. Protocols outline the individual roles and responsibilities for SART agencies, how agency personnel will interact with victims, and how they will coordinate with other SART agency personnel.

For an example of an MOU, see a sample memorandum of understanding from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

SART Protocol Benefits for Victims

The consistent responses to victims outlined in SART protocols can help ensure that all victims receive the services and supports they need. By outlining consistent, culturally relevant, trauma-informed, victim-centered responses, SART protocols address the inequitable access to services and supports for victims. Any victim of sexual assault should be able to access services from any entry point (e.g., hospital, police station, advocacy center) and receive the support they need and want from the responders in those systems. Protocols ensure that all victims are supported in their efforts to seek care, report, and otherwise engage in the criminal justice system. [101]

Protocols are a way to ensure every member in every agency has access to information on supporting victims of sexual assault. Protocols, in conjunction with other staff and supervisors, may give service providers information during a response, especially around circumstances with which they are unfamiliar.

While it is ideal that service providers be well trained and up to date on responding to victims, communities that experience a low number of reports or frequent turnover of first responders may rely heavily on protocols and handheld checklists. This may be the case in rural communities where providers do not have access to 24/7 backup or are the only service provider in a large area. This may be the case in urban areas where the primary provider specializing in supporting victims and receiving reports of sexual violence is not available. Protocols can also be a used during service provision if service providers cannot agree on the appropriate course of action as a reference.

Developing protocol encourages SART members to build a shared understanding of language and terms specific to each discipline.

Readiness for Protocol Development

Every SART is unique in membership, location, resources, and need. While the SART Toolkit recommends best practices for SARTs based on current research and field knowledge, not all SARTs are able to immediately implement these recommendations. It is important for your SART to explore your level of readiness before beginning the implementation of these suggested steps.

Often, trying to move too fast or far from the realistic capabilities of a given team can increase conflict and disagreement within a SART, ultimately detracting from the overall mission. Beginning with a foundation of open communication within the team and establishing a trusting environment is essential. When members can communicate effectively and have trusting relationships, team members are naturally more able to work together during the challenging processes of enacting changes in protocol, language, systems, meetings, or service provision. [102]

Reviewing the foundational components for SARTs is essential to determining if your SART is ready for protocol development. The stronger the foundation, the more the SART can withstand challenges that arise over time, such as conflict, turnover, resource changes, and leadership transitions.

The chart below can help review prior steps, including revisiting your mission statement and other foundational components in preparation for protocol development.

Foundational Components for a SART

Key Considerations

Clearly defined purpose

SART members must understand the reason the team exists and the intended goals of collaborating. Having a clearly stated purpose defines parameters, indicates common accountability, and creates a collective vision for the SART.

What is our mission statement?

What is our defined service area?

What population(s) are we trying to impact and serve?

Key membership

The SART’s membership is a set of agencies, represented on the team by individuals from those agencies. Those individuals serve as liaisons between the SART and their respective agencies. Team members should be experienced in sexual assault work, be able to represent the perspectives of their agencies, and have authority to make decisions within their agencies. It is also crucial that SART membership reflect the community it serves by including survivors and members from key social and cultural groups (LGBTQ, faith communities, immigrant groups, etc.).

Does the SART have representation from core criminal justice response agencies (e.g., law enforcement, prosecution, medical, advocacy, 911, dispatchers, and corrections/probation)?

Does the SART have representation from special or marginalized groups and culturally specific service providers in the community? Are these individuals intentionally there as a representative from that community?

Do the individuals on the team have decision-making ability or direct connections to decision-makers within their agencies or programs?

Buy-in from agency leadership

The leadership of SART member agencies must be informed about the work the SART is doing and be supportive of the process. This is important to ensure the ongoing engagement of member agencies and promote accountability to the SART process throughout the agency.

How is SART agency leadership informed about updates from the SART?

Has the commitment to the SART been formalized in an MOU?

Agreement on process

There must be support for the process the SART will use to achieve its goals. SART members must recognize their roles in contributing to the work the team will do and share in the responsibility toward achieving the team’s goals.

How do we do our work — meetings, tasks, etc.?

What resources are needed to support our work?

What are the roles of individual SART representatives? Of member agency leadership? Of the SART coordinator?

Relationships

SART members need to be intentional about spending time learning about the roles, perspectives, and experiences of their team partners. This is crucial because the SART will engage in difficult conversations that challenge current practices. The more trust there is between members, the more confidence members will have in the intentions of their team partners, allowing them to hold one another, and themselves, accountable.

What is the history between SART member agencies?

In what ways are SART member agencies currently working together with regard to sexual violence?

What is the current level of understanding of roles across the SART disciplines?

Victim Voices

Developing a mechanism for victim feedback as mentioned in Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Act of 2013 Task Force Report 2016 [103] is central to ensuring conversations focus on victims’ needs and are grounded in their experiences. SARTs can gather victim input in different ways. Feedback should be encouraged from victims that have both positive and negative experiences with systems, as well as those that did not engage with systems at all. This can help to create more meaningful work for the SART and a more victim-centered response. Refer to the section of the SART Toolkit on incorporating Victims’ Voices for more information on how to do this in a safe, ethical manner.

How is the SART ensuring victims are supported in providing their feedback?

What measures exist to avoid re-victimization or tokenizing a victim (thinking one victim can speak to the realities of all victims or all crimes) who contributes their feedback?

How is the SART gathering perspectives of victims of diverse backgrounds and identities and integrating them into the work authentically and intentionally?

Finances

Does your SART have the finances and capacity to develop a protocol and train on that protocol?

Meeting participation

SARTs that endeavor to develop protocol should consider their meeting participation, buy-in, and commitment of members, member agencies, and leadership. Endeavoring on protocol development without buy-in or engagement could lead to negative outcomes or could be a rallying point for the SART to increase buy-in and participation.

Are members consistently attending meetings?

Is there buy-in to the mission, purpose, and vision?

Defining Issues to Be Addressed in Protocol

Defining the scope of the issues addressed by a protocol is the first step toward positive change. A community needs assessment can address this step. In understanding present problems, SART members should share how each agency addresses an issue.

Members should put their assumptions aside and come into the process asking “what” and “how” questions rather than “why” questions. This will help the team establish a baseline of the challenges of sexual assault in their community, what resources exist to address it, and what is lacking. For example, ask “How does your agency do that?” not “Why did you do that?”

Protocols from other communities can be used as a guide but should never be copied, as protocols are unique to their community. For example, a rural area may have one police force serving the entire county, whereas an urban area may have several police agencies, divided into multiple jurisdictions serving a relatively smaller geographic area. There might also be a large immigrant population, or American Indian/Alaskan Native population that falls within the SART’s jurisdiction. SARTs must spend time exploring the realities of sexual assault, service provision, and accountability as it exists in their community.

Protocol development is a time-consuming process that can take several months or more than a year to complete. It is important that member agencies, particularly leadership, understand this and commit resources appropriately. Once SARTs have built a solid foundation, assessed community needs, and identified response strengths and gaps, they are ready to begin developing protocols.

Protocol Development

SVJI and the Eight-Step Model for Developing Protocol by Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 2011. Retrieved from LINK.

Protocol is developed through a process of discussion and negotiation among SART members to arrive at agreements regarding the response by each organization to incidents of sexual violence. When consensus is reached, those agreements are documented in the form of guidelines, which are referred to as the protocol. [104]

Protocol applies to everyone on the SART, member organizations, and individual representatives of all the member organizations. Protocol should outlive each SART member and be relevant and applicable to the position, title, or discipline, not rely on the person who is currently attending the SART or who responds to incidents.

Because different communities have different strengths and needs, SARTs should spend time defining what a comprehensive and equitable response to sexual assault in your community would include. The best response incorporates research, best practices, and unique elements that respond to the demands of the community. This lets SARTs discuss and determine the parts of the protocol that are standards of practice (basic and unchanging), and the parts that might have more flexibility (situational and based on the responder’s discretion).

OVC’s Model Standards for Serving Victims and Survivors of Crime provides information on best practices in serving victims.

Response to any victim should include referral to culturally relevant advocacy as a basic practice and should be embedded into the protocol. Opportunities for flexibility emerge, for instance, in the case of a victim who was engaged in underage drinking or drug use. Protocols can build in practices that disregard minor offenses on the part of the victim, and focus instead on how the perpetrator used substances to create vulnerability in the victim. Both the standards of practice and the flexible parts of the protocol are necessary to set a baseline response and allow room to address individual victim needs.

While every SART may create its own plan, there are general guidelines for the process of protocol development:

  • Determine scope of focus. Review patterns in the community needs assessment, including existing protocols or lack thereof, and priority areas to begin protocol development, enhancement, or training. Will the protocol start by addressing the biggest gaps identified in the needs assessment or address several smaller gaps and strengths?
  • Develop key questions for guidance. Identifying overarching themes and points of intersection can help SARTs begin creating more streamlined and coordinated processes.
  • Establish a process for developing the protocol. Will the SART use workgroups or another method for organizing the work? This is a way for SARTs to distribute the work across the whole team. Each workgroup is tasked with creating a different section of the protocol for the SART to review and approve. Groups can be discipline-specific or involve a mix of different disciplines to gain added perspective
  • Include victims. How will victims, family members, and the community provide feedback during, after, or throughout development?
  • Set a timeline. What are the deadlines for revision, completion, and approval?
  • Review current protocols. How can the SART’s current protocols (if any) help inform the revision or development of new ones?
  • Adapt or develop new protocols. Although protocols should always be developed by and for the community in which they exist, it can be helpful to view protocols from other SARTs as examples to adapt or to build from. Visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) for a list of SART Protocols. [105] Having conversations with technical assistance providers or other SARTs about their process may be useful to understand what barriers they faced and how they overcame them.
  • Obtain approval from SART agency leadership. How will agency leadership provide feedback and sign off on the final version of the protocol?
  • Develop and commit to an implementation plan. What personnel are impacted by the protocol, and how will they be trained?

Below is a list of components that research and practice have shown to be important inclusions in the actual protocol:

  • Define a victim-centered response.
  • Involve advocacy early and often. [106]
  • Develop multiple reporting options.
  • Ensure access to a medical forensic exam.
  • Account for the neurobiology of trauma. [107]
  • Consider the totality of circumstances in a case. [108]
  • Approach cases with person-first language, centering on the choices and actions of the perpetrator, rather than the victim. [109]
  • Provide capacity to enact or follow protocol.

SARTs can review the Community Needs Assessment section of the SART Toolkit for additional information.

How a SART organizes a written protocol can be determined based on what will work best for all team members. There could be sections divided by discipline, a flowchart of SART responses, printed checklists for organizations to use on site, or charts with tasks and responsibilities marked for each SART agency. Regardless of how the protocol is set up, it is essential that the protocol clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of each discipline, including when and how they coordinate services.

Additional considerations for organizing the written protocol include —

  • using terminology that is understood by all participating agencies;
  • designing the protocol so that it is useful and accessible to all agencies and responders;
  • clearly outlining the benefits to all responders using the protocol; and
  • ensuring every SART agency always has a copy of the most current version of protocol. Many SARTS post the protocol online so team members always have access to the most current version through their smartphones.

The SART may wish to consider the use of appendices to support the protocol. These sections may include —

  • a glossary of terms;
  • mandated reporting requirements;
  • information about privilege and confidentiality;
  • an explanation of the protocol’s purpose;
  • the SART mission statement, values, and guiding principles;
  • a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section;
  • a disclaimer statement of individual discretion in certain circumstances; and
  • information on other resources that may be helpful in responding to victims (e.g., interpretation services).

Protocol Implementation

SART leadership should review and approve the final draft of the protocol and ensure that the leadership of all agencies involved is committed to its full implementation and use. Protocol implementation is successful when all SART agencies can dedicate the necessary resources and personnel and participate in training.

SARTs may wish to hold signing ceremonies, public events, or a press conference to share the completion of the protocol and demonstrate the commitment to a victim-centered response to sexual assault within the community. [110] This also provides an opportunity to celebrate the work of the team in accomplishing such an important task.

Protocol implementation begins by identifying the staff that will be affected by the protocol and developing training to prepare them to use it. This process may include conducting a training needs analysis, creating a protocol training committee within the SART, and having individual SART members organize and coordinate the training efforts in their respective agencies or across agencies.

Training needs and the training process itself will look different from agency to agency, depending on the number of personnel and responders impacted by the protocol, as well as agency structure, resources, size of jurisdiction, and capacity to devote to training.

Some questions that can help SARTs consider their options for training are —

  • which personnel in the SART agencies are affected by this protocol?
  • who will deliver the training?
  • how many personnel in each SART agency require training on the protocol?
  • what are the other training needs of affected SART agencies (e.g., dynamics of sexual violence, understanding victim behavior)?
  • how much time and how many resources can SART agencies devote to training personnel?
  • what must the training content include?
  • what is the timeline for getting all SART agency personnel trained on the protocol?
  • how will the training be delivered (e.g., multi-day over extended period, weeklong, in-person, online)?
  • will a record of trainings be kept?
  • will training on the protocol be incorporated into training for new staff at all SART agencies?

Developing objectives and a schedule will help guide the training process. Each agency’s leadership is ultimately responsible for ensuring the proper personnel are trained, the protocol is properly implemented throughout their individual organizations, and barriers to implementation are monitored and recorded.

For more information, see the Evaluation section of the SART Toolkit.

Sample Protocols

The following protocols are provided as references and examples. As described above, protocols are the documentation of agreements that were negotiated by a particular multidisciplinary team (whether local, regional, tribal, territory, or state) at a specific point. Pulling examples from other team protocols or from model protocols can provide a helpful starting place for writing new protocols or reviewing existing ones. Developing and discussing the development together will increase the likelihood the protocol you develop will fit for your community and your SART, as suggested by the guidance given above.

The list below may be incomplete. If you are in search of a model that may exist for your state, territory, or tribe, contact a training or TA advisor who serves your area to ask about specific models. If you have a protocol you’d like to share, please email resrources@nsvrc.org.

Statewide Sexual Assault Response Protocols

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault — Statewide Sexual Assault Response Team Manual (PDF, 57 pages)

This manual by the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault discusses building a SART. Section 8 covers protocol creation, including advocacy, law enforcement, medical, and prosecution responses.

Guidelines for Community Response to Sexual Assault in Alaska (PDF, 9 pages)

These guidelines from Alaska help communities develop a SART by providing information on team member roles, processes, suggested training, and protocol.

New Hampshire Sexual Assault: An Acute Care Protocol for Medical/Forensic Evaluation (PDF, 113 pages)

New Hampshire’s protocol focuses on medical and forensic evaluation as well as the state’s laws regarding sexual assault, reporting, and options for patients.

North Dakota Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Protocol (PDF, 103 pages)

The state of North Dakota’s protocol provides information about a number of different victim populations, including children, people in later life, men, people who identify as LGBTQ, victims with disabilities, and others. It also includes recommendations for law enforcement as well as medical personnel.

Ohio Protocol for Sexual Assault Forensic and Medical Examination (PDF, 48 pages)

The Ohio protocol covers adult and older adolescent sexual assault forensic and medical examination.

Oregon SATF Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Handbook (PDF, 82 pages)

This handbook discusses advocacy, law enforcement, medical, prosecutor, offender management, and forensic lab responses to sexual assault. This protocol also covers outreach and prevention.

Wisconsin Adult Sexual Assault Response Team Protocol (PDF, 75 pages)

This protocol was developed in 2011 for Wisconsin’s Adult SART and includes advocates, law enforcement, prosecution, and sexual assault forensic examiners (SAFEs). This protocol also covers the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), cultural competency, and best practices.

City, County, and Regional Sexual Assault Response Protocols

Cambria County Sexual Assault Protocol (PDF, 44 pages)

This protocol from Cambria County, Pennsylvania, covers the roles of law enforcement officers, victim advocates, SANEs, and prosecutors. It also includes a protocol checklist and discusses each member’s role regarding anonymous reporting.

Denver Sexual Assault Response Protocol (PDF, 163 pages)

This protocol for Denver, Colorado, includes responses for law enforcement, medical personnel, community victim services, college campuses, prosecution, and sex offender management.

Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department Sexual Assault Response Team Protocol (Microsoft Word, 30 pages)

This protocol from Miami-Dade County, Florida, lays out the goals and structure of the SART as well as a timeline and process.

Ramsey County Sexual Assault Response Protocol (PDF, 43 pages)

This protocol from Ramsey County in Minnesota is for a multi-jurisdiction SART with many members from multiple disciplines including community-based agencies.

Red River Sexual Assault Response Team Protocol for Responding to Sexual Assault (PDF, 70 pages)

This protocol was developed by the Red River Sexual Assault Response Team in Cass County, North Dakota, and Clay County, Minnesota. It covers processes for health care providers, SANEs, victim advocates, law enforcement, and prosecution.

Sexual Assault Protocol Manual (PDF, 51 pages)

This manual from Maricopa County, Arizona describes best practices for any discipline working with sexual assault victims, including law enforcement, prosecutors, health care providers, and others.

Sexual Assault Response Protocol, Region of Waterloo (PDF, 70 pages)

This protocol toolkit developed by the Waterloo region in Ontario, Canada, includes forms, information about sexual consent, a service provider self-assessment checklist, a flowchart of the criminal justice process, and more.

Tribal Sexual Assault Response Protocols

Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan Sexual Assault Response Team Policy & Protocol (PDF, 26 pages)

This protocol provides goals and a mission statement for a tribal SART in Michigan. The protocol includes a SART structure and processes for law enforcement officers, SANEs, and on-call advocates.

Specific Population Sexual Assault Response Protocols

Best Practices in the Criminal Justice Response to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault: Guidance for CCR/SART Response Protocols (PDF, 25 pages)

This protocol was developed by the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence. It includes protocol best practices for sexual assault and domestic violence responses.

PREA Coordinated Response Protocol Template for Small Jails (PDF, 15 pages)

Just Detention International and the State of Colorado Division of Criminal Justice developed this sample SART protocol for jail staff members, Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) liaisons, advocates, sexual assault forensic examiners (SAFEs), law enforcement investigators, and attorneys.

SAFE Protocol: Trans-Specific Annotation (PDF, 4 pages)

This guide from FORGE provides additional details on the specific references to working with transgender people in the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations.

Protocol Development Resources

Best Practices Resources

These resources from End Violence Against Women International include extensive and up-to-date information on responding to sexual assault. SARTs can use these best practices in their protocol development.

Clinical Practice Guideline Development Manual: A Quality-Driven Approach for Translating Evidence into Action [111]

This manual discusses the practices used by the American Academy of Otolaryngology to create their guidelines.

Core Messages for B-SMART Agencies (PDF, 2 pages)

This resource was developed by the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. It includes core messages for those who work with sexual assault victims.

Guide to Developing Interagency Protocols (PDF, 18 pages)

The Guide to Developing Interagency Protocols focuses on the Australian Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP), but the concepts for developing protocol can be applied to SARTs as well.

Hennepin SMARTeam – Five Core Principles (1 page)

This resource was developed by the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. It includes the principles of compassion, collaboration, communication, choice, and cultural responsiveness.

Questions for Teams to Consider During Protocol Writing (PDF, 6 pages)

The Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault provides a list of questions broken down by discipline for SARTs to consider while developing protocol.

Sexual Assault Response Team Development: A Guide for Victim Service Providers (PDF, 12 pages)

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) developed this guide to assist service providers in forming a SART, including a section on defining protocols and guidelines. Several tips for developing protocol are discussed.

SVJI Core Intervention Principles (PDF, 1 page)

This resource from the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault explains the underlying victim-centered assumptions SARTs should keep in mind while developing protocol.

Victim-Centered Responsibilities Matrix (PDF, 4 pages)

SARTs can use this tool developed by the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services during protocol development to determine the primary and follow-up responsibilities of each team member.

WHO Handbook for Guideline Development [112] (PDF, 63 pages)

This handbook provides assistance on creating World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, which are documents that contain recommendations about health interventions.

Supporting Prevention Through Community Engagement

SARTs who engage the community can help prevent sexual assaults by educating the public about harmful attitudes and behaviors. Although SARTs originally formed to increase prosecution, many found it difficult to create meaningful changes in reporting, investigation, and prosecution because of widespread misinformation and harmful attitudes about sexual assault. Over time, SARTs began turning to the community to raise awareness of their services and share correct information to enhance their response to victims of sexual assault.

This community engagement serves to meet the SART’s mission to support survivors — including making reporting accessible, decreasing secondary trauma, and increasing prosecution.

Community Voices

SARTs need to ensure that community engagement efforts at prevention are inclusive of all members of your community. You need to ensure that people from under-represented communities (including people with disabilities, LGBTQ persons, racial and ethnic minorities) have opportunities to share their unique issues and solutions. Prevention approaches and materials need to be culturally appropriate and gender specific.

Foundations of Prevention

While primary prevention is a key focus of the anti-violence movement, it is important that programs work at all three levels of prevention necessary to effectively respond to and end sexual assault: [113]

  • Primary prevention includes approaches that take place before sexual assault has occurred and before perpetration or victimization has occurred.
  • Secondary prevention includes the immediate responses after sexual assault occurs. This type of prevention deals with the short-term consequences, such as providing medical services or crisis counseling to victims.
  • Tertiary prevention involves the long-term responses after sexual assault has occurred and deals with the lasting consequences, including sex offender treatment interventions and widespread policy change.

It is also important to note that different types of violence are also connected in many ways. The CDC’s Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links Among Multiple Forms of Violence offers an overview of these connections and ways in which they affect communities. Understanding how sexual violence is interconnected with domestic violence, youth violence, child maltreatment, and teen dating violence can give practitioners a better idea of ways to coordinate responses to violence that consider the various ways it impacts individuals. An understanding of this interconnectedness is also useful for organizations and communities as they work collaboratively to develop comprehensive, culturally relevant, and community-specific prevention programming. [114]

Violence can be experienced at multiple points across the lifespan, and there are many opportunities at every life stage to address and prevent violence. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study [115] details research about the impact adverse experiences in childhood have on adult health. SARTs have a unique opportunity to understand ACEs as they relate to trauma. SARTs can also connect people to resources that can help them heal from past experiences regardless of when they enter into receiving services.

A useful framework for how SARTs can work at all three levels of prevention is Sexual Violence and the Spectrum of Prevention: Towards a Community Solution, which provides six levels of action to work toward social change. SARTs can assist in making positive change by striving to incorporate each of these levels into their work. Below are examples of activities related to each level. [116]

Level 1: Strengthening individual knowledge and skills

  • Sharing information about the prevalence of sexual assault in a community
  • Teaching community members how to respond to disclosures of sexual assault
  • Dispelling common victim-blaming myths and attitudes
  • Raising awareness about the continuum of sexual violence, including internet crime, human trafficking, and pornography
  • Advocating for education on healthy relationships, healthy sexuality, and consent
  • Modeling bystander intervention strategies

Level 2: Promoting community education

  • Promoting local sexual assault centers’ educational events
  • Hosting an informational table at community health events
  • Using social media to advance positive messages about relationships, consent, and sexuality
  • Providing informational brochures to libraries, community centers, and local businesses
  • Using nontraditional educational settings such as community centers and libraries to educate and engage various groups of people
  • Advocating for spaces for all people to access support
  • Listening to and amplifying the voices of those most affected by sexual assault, such as youth, communities of color, and tribal nations

Level 3: Educating providers

  • Sponsoring professional education across systems
  • Providing trainings to school counselors, community-specific providers, and health care providers about how to screen for sexual abuse or assault, how to respond in trauma-informed and victim-centered ways, and how to refer to services
  • Educating and engaging nontraditional partners such as nail salon staff, bar staff, taxi drivers, or drivers with ride-sharing apps

Level 4: Fostering networks and coalitions

  • Engaging men and boys as allies in sexual assault prevention and healthy manhood promotion
  • Participating in local task forces to end sexual assault, including those that focus on promoting health, mental health, substance abuse prevention, human trafficking prevention, or child sexual assault prevention
  • Being active members of coalitions to end other forms of systemic inequality (e.g., homelessness, racism, sexism, homophobia)
  • Using state-level coalitions such as state agencies, victim service organizations, sex offender treatment organizations, human trafficking task forces, and child abuse prevention organizations for messages and networking
  • Collaborating with coalitions at regional/local levels to address the shared risk and protective factors in communities

Level 5: Changing organizational practices

  • Developing messaging campaigns to reflect personal and organization responsibility for preventing sexual violence
  • Working with local service providers (including schools, churches, community centers, youth programs, elder support agencies, and health clinics) to update their policies and practices around mandated reporting, response to victims, and appropriate staff behavior
  • Prioritizing efforts that support prevention

Level 6: Influencing policies and legislation

  • Collaborating with the state sexual assault coalition or other leaders in the state to develop strategies to change laws and policies to influence outcomes
  • Educating policymakers on the causes and effects of sexual violence and strategies to reduce its incidence
  • Seeking appropriate policies to control human trafficking, prostitution, and child pornography

Community Engagement: Increasing Readiness for Prevention

Primary prevention aims to create communities where equality, respect, and safety are accepted norms to stop sexual assault before it happens.

Actions focused on raising awareness help support primary prevention efforts because members of the community who are aware of their options will be more likely to seek help after an assault. [117] Similarly, people need to understand that sexual assault is a problem before they are willing to mobilize and activate around ending sexual assault.

SARTs can engage in ongoing community mobilization and awareness efforts throughout the year. This may include participating in awareness months such as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, National Stalking Awareness Month, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month tailored to the populations served.

SARTs can partner with community partners to recognize and tie prevention and awareness efforts to month-long observances such as:

  • Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
  • Autism Awareness Month
  • Black History Month
  • Hispanic Heritage Month
  • Irish-American Heritage month
  • Jewish American Heritage Month
  • LGBT Pride Month
  • National Deaf History Month
  • National Mobility Awareness Month
  • Women’s History Month

SARTs can also engage with local media before and when an incident of sexual assault receives media attention. It is especially beneficial for SARTs to build relationships with the media before highly visible tragic incidents occur, so the community is familiar with the SART. Engaging with media can include promoting norms of community health and safety that do not allow sexual assault to occur.

The St. Croix Valley Sexual Assault Response Team is an example of the ways in which SARTs can increase their involvement with prevention and move toward promoting healthier and safer communities. The St. Croix SART provides community outreach by offering prevention and awareness education, including information on provide information on sexual assault issues, consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships by — [118]

  • speaking to civic groups, social services agencies, health care providers, and local businesses;
  • providing specialized training on sexual assault to first-responders, law enforcement, municipalities, and other professionals to assist in building tier capacity to respond to survivor victims of sexual assault;
  • providing written information and educational materials;
  • conducting in-person outreach with diverse communities; and
  • educating the community about services offered.

When more SARTs begin engaging with and supporting prevention in ways that reflect and support the communities you serve, we will more effectively be able to end sexual assault.

Prevention Resources

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

The CDC provides several studies on ACEs, as well as resources and case studies that help contextualize the findings.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention & Control, Division of Violence Prevention

This site includes information about preventing various forms of violence, including child abuse, intimate partner violence, and sexual violence.

Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links Among Multiple Forms of Violence (PDF, 16 pages)

This brief by the CDC and the Prevention Institute shares research on connections between different forms of violence and describes how these connections affect communities. The purpose is to help promote collaboration for more effective prevention.

Culturally Effective Prevention and Intervention (website)

This page from the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence discusses dynamics, cultural barriers, and norms in Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. Understanding these dynamics can help service providers create prevention strategies that fit these communities’ needs.

Guide for Transforming Prevention Programming: Sexual Violence and Individuals Who Identify as LGBTQ (PDF, 23 pages)

This guide by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC)and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) provides information to state and community-based sexual violence prevention educators and practitioners on preventing sexual violence against individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

Preventing Multiple Forms of Violence: A Strategic Vision for Connecting the Dots (PDF, 18 pages)

This resource outlines the CDC’s vision for preventing and addressing multiple forms of violence by examining the connections among various types of violence.

Preventing Sexual Violence in Latin@ Communities: A National Needs Assessment (PDF, 147 pages)

This comprehensive report prepared by the Center for Evaluation and Sociomedical Research for NSVRC details advocates’ needs related to sexual violence in Latin@/x communities.

Prevention Institute

The Prevention Institute works to develop and advance primary prevention through research, tools, training, and technical assistance.

Primary Sexual Violence Prevention Project (PDF, 2 pages)

This brochure by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) includes a roadmap for how to incorporate primary prevention into nursing practices as well as primary prevention action steps nurses can take.

Primary Prevention Primer (multimedia, 20-30 minutes)

This primer by the NSVRC introduces primary prevention through a set of activities to enhance knowledge about primary prevention. Information covered includes the Moving Upstream story, the Social Ecological Model, and an exploration of the differences between risk reduction and primary prevention.

Principles of Prevention (multimedia, 75-90 minutes)

This online course by the CDC discusses the basics of sexual assault prevention and differentiates the three levels of prevention: primary, secondary, and tertiary.

Sexual Violence Prevention: Beginning the Dialogue (PDF, 16 pages)

This resource by the CDC identifies concepts and strategies that may be used as a foundation for planning, implementing, and evaluating sexual assault prevention activities.

Sexual Violence and the Spectrum of Prevention: Towards a Community Solution (PDF, 20 pages)

This publication by the NSVRC provides advocates, practitioners, and educators with a guide for developing a comprehensive community approach to the primary prevention of sexual assault.

STOP SV A Technical Package to Prevent Sexual Violence (PDF, 48 pages)

The CDC has developed this technical package to help states and communities take advantage of the best available evidence to prevent sexual violence.

Community Engagement Resources

The Community Engagement Continuum: Outreach, Mobilization, Organizing and Accountability to Address Violence against Women in Asian and Pacific Islander Communities (PDF, 70 pages)

This report by the Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence and the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) Health Forum covers the community engagement continuum and offers strategies useful for engaging Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

Community Engagement Guidebook

This online resource developed by the Minnesota Department of Health guides service providers through the process of community engagement, including the basic principles behind it, useful tools such as surveys, and resources about multicultural communities. It may be useful for any community.

Community Planning Toolkit: Community Engagement (PDF, 24 pages)

The Community Planning Toolkit developed by Community Places provides recommendations on ways to engage with the community, including community mapping, holding public meetings, facilitating forums, engaging online, and other methods that SARTs may find useful in their communities.

Community Tool Box: Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of the Community Tool Box provides guidance on promoting participation and awareness in the community. Tips are given on working with the media, using paid advertising, developing print materials, reaching out online, and more.

Engaging Communities to Prevent Sexual Violence (PDF, 3 pages)

This resource by the Center for Community Based Research explains how community engagement is a sexual assault prevention strategy, gives tips on assessing community readiness for prevention, and provides a list of additional resources.

Engaging Men and Youth to Prevent Violence Against Women

This website addresses how getting to the roots of gender-based violence necessarily examines the roles and responsibilities of men and boys. Men’s participation is essential if we are to end violence against women. Resources to mobilize your community as well as promising practices are provided.

Social Marketing and Public Awareness Campaigns

Community Tool Box: Social Marketing of Successful Components of the Initiative (Chapter 45)
This resource defines the social marketing framework and gives step-by-step instructions on applying this framework to any issue.

Gateway to Health Communication and Social Marketing Practice
These resources and tools guide users in designing health communication interventions within a public health framework.

Making Health Communication Programs Work (PDF, 262 pages)
This resource covers the steps needed to conduct a successful communications campaign, including strategy development, message testing, implementation, evaluation, research methods, and theory.

Vicarious Trauma

Vicarious trauma is a reaction to an indirect trauma exposure, such as learning about another person’s pain and suffering. Individuals affected can experience a range of psychosocial symptoms, often similar to those who have experienced the event firsthand. [119]

Vicarious trauma is an occupational challenge for people working and volunteering in the fields of victim services, law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire services, and other allied professions, due to their continuous exposure to victims of trauma and violence. [120] A provider might feel the effects of vicarious trauma right away after a particular conversation or as the cumulative effect of exposure to other’s suffering over time. It can also impact friends, families and significant others of the victim or the provider.

Vicarious trauma is sometimes referred to as secondary traumatic stress (STS), compassion fatigue (CF), or critical incident stress (CIS). [121] These terms are often used interchangeably.

This section of the SART Toolkit provides a brief overview of vicarious trauma. The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit released in 2017 hosts more than 500 resources, including in-depth information on the introductory information presented in the SART Toolkit.

Symptoms of Vicarious Trauma

Vicarious traumatization is a reaction to trauma exposure and includes a range of psychosocial symptoms. [122] Some have described vicarious trauma as "feeling heavy" or when work with victims "gets inside you." Vicarious trauma is an ongoing process of change caused by repeatedly empathizing with people who have been harmed.

Members of all disciplines represented on a SART can experience vicarious trauma, a normal result of working with sexual assault victims. For example, a police officer may feel affected during or after an interview with a victim, or an advocate may experience vicarious trauma when working with children who are victims of sexual abuse. Viewing digital evidence can be especially challenging to service providers, even if they never interact directly with a victim.

Often, symptoms of vicarious trauma are similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. A person experiencing vicarious trauma may exhibit — [123]

  • panic attacks;
  • exhaustion;
  • feelings of powerlessness or helplessness;
  • oversensitivity or hypervigilance;
  • numbness;
  • lack of appetite;
  • disturbance in sleeping patterns or nightmares;
  • difficulty concentrating;
  • intrusive thoughts of traumas described by victims;
  • a decrease in self-esteem;
  • isolation or detachment;
  • use of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, or drugs; [124]
  • feeling less available or sympathetic to friends and family members;
  • feeling less energy or interest for things that are typically enjoyed; and
  • avoidance of work or co-workers.

For more signs and symptoms of vicarious trauma, view A Trauma Exposure Response. [125]

Risk Factors

Anyone working with or supporting survivors of trauma can experience vicarious trauma, such as professionals, friends, and family members of a victim. Some people may be at a higher risk than others.

Common risk factors include — [126]

  • having experienced personal trauma;
  • overworking or overextending oneself;
  • neglecting health needs, such as sleeping less, not exercising, or not eating healthy foods;
  • having a higher or extended exposure to traumatic cases; and
  • social isolation or lack of a support system.

For a more in-depth list, visit the Vicarious Trauma Toolkit.

Self-assessments can help SART members determine their risk factors for vicarious trauma. [127]

Managing Vicarious Trauma

Vicarious trauma can affect the sustainability of a SART, as team members suffering from vicarious trauma may be less able to serve effectively. This can lead to burnout and subsequent turnover.

To manage vicarious trauma, it is important to understand the ABCs — awareness, balance, and connection: [128]

  • Awareness: Being aware of vicarious trauma means being mindful of your emotions, recognizing your needs, and knowing what solutions will work best for you.
  • Balance: Develop and maintain a work-life balance to give yourself a reprieve from the situations causing vicarious trauma.
  • Connection: Communicate and connect with others within your agency, in your larger professional field, and in your personal life.

As a group, SARTs can be proactive in decreasing the risk of vicarious trauma. A SART culture that discusses and normalizes vicarious trauma can be helpful. SARTs can take the following actions to build an environment that helps address vicarious trauma: [129]

  • Hold regular check-ins to debrief and discuss coping mechanisms.
  • Empower supervisors at agencies to check in around vicarious trauma.
  • Address safety issues such as security training. [130]
  • Understand and accept that vicarious trauma is real and can impact anyone on the team, and that vicarious trauma affects the whole SART.
  • Develop clear tasks and job expectations for each SART member, but remain flexible about role changes.
  • Encourage communication and openness.
  • Make self-assessments available for SART members.
  • Hold trainings or workshops on vicarious trauma and coping strategies.
  • Debrief after particularly traumatic cases.
  • Celebrate each other’s successes and achievements.
  • Establish a response plan to address concerns. For an example, see how the New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team Mission and Values incorporates trauma stewardship.

It is essential that SARTs recognize the risk factors and respond to vicarious trauma as a team during case reviews, meetings, or on a periodic basis. Some groups invite a therapist a few times a year or as needed to process through the work or a specifically challenging case or circumstances.

Discussion topics for SART agendas related to vicarious trauma include —
  • effective coping strategies and the importance of support networks,
  • confidentiality concerns around seeking support outside of the SART,
  • the need for regular supervision, and
  • how to address concerns about co-workers who might be affected by vicarious trauma.

Vicarious Trauma Resources

The Joyful Heart Foundation

This foundation provides resources and solutions for people experiencing vicarious trauma.

Self-Care and Trauma Work (PDF, 3 pages)

This resource by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) and the National Sexual Assault Coalition Resource Sharing Project (RSP) defines vicarious trauma, signs, and organizational practices that can help manage it. This resource may be helpful for SART members to implement in their own agencies and organizations.

Trauma-Informed: The Trauma Toolkit (PDF, 152 pages)

The Klinic Community Health Centre’s Toolkit is a resource for service organizations and providers to deliver trauma-informed services. There is information on trauma exposure response, risk factors, and how to manage responses to trauma. This toolkit provides tips for organizations on creating safe spaces.

Understanding Secondary Trauma (online training)

This resource from the Center for Sex Offender Management discusses risk factors for secondary traumatic stress.

Vicarious Trauma Toolkit

This toolkit, hosted by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), contains over 500 discipline-specific resources around vicarious trauma.

Vicarious Trauma Institute

This institute provides background information, online resources, training, books, and other resources about vicarious trauma.

When Compassion Hurts: Burnout, Vicarious Trauma and Secondary Trauma in Prenatal and Early Childhood Service Providers (PDF, 45 pages)

Appendix 1 of this resource by Best Start Resource Centre includes self-assessments, presentations, and videos that can be used as agenda topics or for individual SART member use.

Vicarious Trauma Self-Assessment Resources

Burnout, Compassion Fatigue and Vicarious Trauma Assessment (PDF, 2 pages)

Team members can use this 21-question assessment to further explore how they may be affected by the work they are engaged in. This wellness assessment tool, which includes a facilitator’s manual and 25 copies of the Assessment Tool, can be purchased from the Crisis and Trauma Resource Institute (CRTI).

Burnout Self-Test

This interactive self-test by MindTools helps users determine if they are at risk of burnout.

Drowning in Empathy: The Cost of Vicarious Trauma (multimedia, 12:10)

This TEDx Talk explains vicarious trauma (or compassion fatigue), outlines common symptoms, and suggests a daily self-care strategy.

Figley Institute Compassion Fatigue Educator Certification (PDF, 56 pages)

Page 30 includes a Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) Scale members can use to determine how they’ve been impacted by their work with trauma survivors.

Transforming Vicarious Trauma (multimedia, 5:42)

This video by the Headington Institute describes three specific strategies for responding to vicarious trauma — engaging deeply, expanding your resources, and examining your beliefs.

What Is Vicarious Trauma? (multimedia, 3:28)

This short video by the Headington Institute defines vicarious trauma, lists some of the symptoms, and provides tips for managing it.

Working with the Media

Media outlets can play a valuable role in raising awareness and educating communities about sexual assault. In recent years, high-profile cases of sexual assault have been widely covered by the media, providing an opportunity to broaden understanding of sexual assault and opportunities for prevention. SART members can partner with the media to ensure that coverage of sexual assault provides accurate information, protects victim rights, and holds offenders accountable. SARTs can offer the media first-hand insight, expertise, and resources to give context to local, regional, and national cases of sexual assault.

Sexual assault is a sensitive subject, and many journalists are not adequately trained in how best to cover it. [131] It is the media’s responsibility to balance reporting accurate information with protecting victims’ and offenders’ rights and avoiding traumatizing communities or previous victims of sexual assault. The training, skills, and experience of SART members can help the media cover sexual assault stories responsibly. Members of the media may look to SART participants for guidance on appropriate reporting that upholds victims’ rights, such as not printing victims’ names.

Each news story is an opportunity to highlight the resources that exist in your community. By working proactively with the media, SARTs can provide general information and guidance about sexual assault-related issues, including how to talk about victims and people who commit sexual assault, and appropriate terminology and context on statistics. SART members can also provide valuable context on common responses to trauma to increase understanding of how victims may react to assault.

A coordinated media response plan contributes to successful media relations. The SART should agree on consistent practices and standards when talking with media, such as not using a victim’s name and not sharing specific details of the assault or other identifying information. The immediacy of reporting through social media provides reporters with opportunities to inadvertently share private information. Your SART’s consistent message to the media to protect the identity of victims can decrease the chance of information being shared that is harmful to victims.

SARTs can watch the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) Reporting on Sexual Violence e-learning course to reinforce their consistency in responding to media requests. This course can also be shared with local media outlets to enhance their coverage on sexual assault. All SARTs can benefit from discussing media relations and consistent messaging to synthesize ideas and identify potential opportunities, whether or not they have worked with the media.

How to Respond to Media Requests

Most reporters work on a deadline. Prompt responses to their questions are key to having your information, quotes, or resources included in their stories. Before making any comments on the record, however, it can be helpful to speak with the reporter for background information on the case or issue being covered.

The following questions will help you provide a timely response to the reporter or make an appropriate referral if they are looking for information you cannot provide. [132]

Ask the reporter —

  • what is your deadline?
  • what is the focus of the story?
  • who else has been contacted or will be contacted for this story?

If you need time to gather your thoughts and the information needed to respond, let the reporter know you will call back at a set time.

The following tips may help you prepare your response:

  • Determine the top three things you want to convey to the reporter, which may or may not align with the preliminary information requested from you.
  • Gather your notes and supporting statistics with citations, but refrain from overloading the reporter with numbers.
  • Practice your talking points and key messages.
  • Anticipate tough and unexpected questions.
  • Practice pivoting from questions that stray from your message or ask you to speculate.
    • What is most important for people to know is …
    • Many people do not realize that … (State a fact instead of answering questions about myths).
    • We want people to know that … (An opportunity to promote local resources).
  • Connect with a colleague for more perspective.
  • Listen carefully to questions and ask for clarity when needed.
  • Do not be afraid to say that you do not know the answer to a question; if you believe you can find the answer later, offer to do so and be sure to follow up. This can build your reputation for reliability and for being a good resource on background.
  • Remember your words are never guaranteed “off the record” unless both you and the reporter agree that you are speaking off the record.
  • Offer to follow up if there are questions you are not sure how to answer.
  • Volunteer to read the article before it goes to print.

Tips for Working with the Media

Use these tools and strategies for effective media relations: [133]

  • Make yourself available for interviews. The best sources for media outlets are the ones they know will be willing to do interviews on short notice, after business hours and in off-site locations. Reporters operate on tight deadlines, so any assistance you can provide in accommodating their timelines will increase the likelihood of future calls.
  • Proactively engage media. Press conferences or conference calls can be an effective way to share new information or respond to a significant event. Invite media and identify members of the team who may be able to answer questions from their own perspectives. Directly email reporters or producers with whom you have relationships.
  • Follow up after an interview. This is an opportunity to build ongoing relationships with reporters and editors. You can also send additional information you referenced during your interview.
  • Highlight their work on social media. A simple “Thank you to @Reporter @station for talking with us about preventing #sexualassault” with a link to their story can build goodwill.
  • Make your own headlines. Issue press releases or statements to keep media updated or provide background information. A detailed news announcement can include quotes from officials.
  • Highlight good news. Pitch story ideas to your media contacts about positive happenings in your community. Media often respond to problems, and you can help them identify solutions. See the announcement from the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce about providing SANE/SART certification training to nurses. [134]
  • When a high-profile case occurs, offer your expertise on the topic and resources where people affected by sexual assault can receive support locally.
  • Take the opportunity to educate. Use platforms such as a letter to the editor or opinion editorial to react and inform audiences. This can challenge misinformation or state a position on an issue that matters to your community.
  • Share local resources. Provide the contact information for your local rape crisis center and other community resources.

How Sexual Assault Is Represented in the Media

Studies on sexual assault in the news have shown media too often default to victim-blaming myths, negative headlines, and neglecting the bigger picture of how individuals and communities are impacted. [135] Sexual assault is a complex topic, and journalists reporting on it should be aware that it can be different from other crime-related stories. [136] SARTs can provide expert content, statistics, and background information to add valuable context to help the public understand the issue beyond any single reported case.

Sexual Assault Resources for the Media

There are many helpful tools for journalists to enhance their reporting on the topic of sexual assault. Well-written, fact-based stories that place a particular incident in a broader context can contribute to better public understanding. [137] The following resources provide guidance to reporters on how to represent topics related to sexual assault in the media.

Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma
The Dart Center provides tip sheets, publications, and best practices on journalism and trauma.

The Flawed Way the Media Covers High-Profile Rapists (multimedia, 4:08)

This video by Media Matters 4 America discusses how the media covers offenders, using the Brock Turner case and others as examples.

Guide to Interviewing Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (PDF, 15 pages)

This guide by Witness provides tips on how to interview survivors of sexual assault.

Issue 22: What's Missing from the News on Sexual Violence? An Analysis of Coverage, 2011-2013 (PDF, 28 pages)

This report from the Berkeley Media Studies Group explores how sexual assault is portrayed in the news and the implications of these portrayals.

NSVRC Media Packet (PDF, 18 pages)

This packet includes eight resources for journalists that answer common questions related to sexual assault.

Poynter Institute

The Poynter Institute educates those involved in the journalism field about ethical decision-making, diversity, new media skills, and more. Courses are available online.

Reporting on Sexual Violence (online course)

This online course by Poynter News University informs journalists about sexual assault and offers guidelines for interviewing survivors.

Reporting Sexual Assault: A Guide for Journalists (PDF, 23 pages)

This guide by the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is intended to provide insight into new trends and assist journalists in developing strategies to accurately frame the public discussion on sexual assault.

Reporting on Rape and Sexual Violence: A Media Toolkit for Local and National Journalists to Better Media Coverage (PDF, 45 pages)

This toolkit by the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls and Young Women for members of the press explains rape culture, intersectionality, and tips on reporting sexual assault.

Reporting on Sexual Violence: A Media Packet for Maine Journalists (PDF, 6 pages)

This packet by the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center includes resources specific to Maine journalists such as statistics, tips on language use, and additional resources.

Writing About Gender-Based Violence and Title IX: A Guide for Journalists and Editors

This page by Known Your IX includes guidelines for reporters covering gender-based violence, particularly on college campuses.

Resources on SARTs Working with the Media

Media Action Toolkit Responding to Inaccurate and Harmful Portrayals of the Sex Industry (PDF, 33 pages)

Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation developed this online toolkit.

Media Reference Guide (PDF, 40 pages)

This guide from GLAAD addresses basic terminology and includes terms to avoid when writing about individuals who identify as transgender.

Poynter Institute

The Poynter Institute educates those involved in the journalism field about ethical decision-making, diversity, new media skills, and more. Courses are available online.

Stop Sexual Assault in Schools

This page provides examples of Stop Sexual Assault in Schools’ work with the media.

The Stories We Tell and the Stories We Don’t

This keynote speech was given by New York Times David Carr Fellow Amanda Hess at a national summit on media coverage of sexual violence. In the speech, Hess discusses changing the way the media covers sexual assault.

Talking Points: A Guiding Document for Media Response and Community Conversations (PDF, 10 pages)

These talking points by the Prevention and Education Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force provide tips for discussing prevention with the media. Also included are examples of ways to reframe negative questions about sexual assault.

Washington Coalition Against Sexual Assault: Media Advocacy

This page gives tips on working with the media including setting goals, establishing relationships with reporters, and pitching stories.

Working with the Media — A Toolkit for Service Providers (PDF, 20 pages)
This toolkit published by the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence offers guidance on how to build partnerships with the media for improved coverage of sexual assault.

Examples of SARTs in the News

Five on 5 Susan Moen Sexual Assault Response Team (multimedia, 5:49)

Susan Moen, executive director of the Jackson County SART, discusses their SART and services they provide survivors. She includes information on the increase of reporting due to #metoo, encouraging survivors to report whenever they are ready, and how to receive a report of sexual assault.

Hennepin Country SMARTeam Press Conference (multimedia, 1:03)

This local press conference is one example of a SART’s public outreach.

New protocol developed in Hennepin County to improve response to sexual assault

This local news article about a protocol in Hennepin County, Minnesota, is a good example of a way to celebrate a SART’s work.

Sexual Assault Response Team (multimedia, 1:25)

This short news clip shows a SART’s ceremony to sign the MOU and assert the community’s dedication to and involvement in a SART in Asheville, North Carolina.

Sexual Assault Response Team (news article)

The Del Rio New Herald, a local newspaper in Texas, published an article on their SART. The page includes rules of conduct for their comment section, which can serve as a template for other news sites.

Sexual Assault Response Team Survivor PSA (multimedia, :30)

Members of the Survivor Action Team (SAT), part of the Palm Beach County Sexual Assault Response Team, developed this survivor-led public service announcement.

Logic Models and Evaluation

Logic Models

Once SARTs have developed goals and action steps, a logic model is a useful way to connect the goals with outcomes and impact.

A logic model is a tool that visually displays the way a SART's activities link to outcomes. It can be thought of as a roadmap, showing where a program starts, where it is going, and how to get there.

Some SARTs might not have the resources to develop a logic model, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide provides instructions and examples for nonprofits. Evaluating the Work of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Programs in the Criminal Justice System: A Toolkit for Practitioners provides SANE-specific examples. Both manuals have examples that can be adapted for your SART. If you want to share your logic model in the SART Toolkit, email resources@nsvrc.org to have it added as an example.

One of the most common methods to develop a logic model is to identify the primary components, which include the following: [138]

Inputs

Activities

Outputs

Outcomes

Impact (optional)

The resources needed to operate a SART and engage in SART work.

The activities or strategies that compose the work of a SART.

The direct results of a SART that can be easily documented —for example, the number of clients you serve annually.

The effects of the program. These could be changes or benefits that are expected to result from SART work. They may be broken into short-, mid-, and long-term outcomes.

The overall goal or mission of SART work.

Logic models are usually read left to right. They ask: If “input” then “what action?” and lead to “what output” creating “what impact?” [139] Some logic models may include components that others do not. For instance, a model might specify short-term, mid-term, and long-term outcomes, defined as the following: [140]

Short-Term Outcomes

Mid-Term Outcomes

Long-Term Outcomes

Immediate effects of a program that often focus on changes in knowledge, attitudes, and initial structural changes.

Effects that result from the short-term outcomes. These often focus on changes in behavior, norms, or policies.

Effects that result from mid-term outcomes and often include changes in organizations and systems.

Additional components in a logic model can include the assumptions about SART work and the external factors that influence this work. These can be particularly relevant for SARTs as they relate to the unique context and structure of the community in which each SART operates. See definitions of assumptions and external factors below: [141]

Assumptions

External Factors

The beliefs we have about the program, the people involved, and how we think the program will operate.

Aspects external to the program that influence the way the program operates, and are influenced by the program. Elements that affect the program over which there is little control.

Why Create a Logic Model for SART Work?

SARTs can use logic models to support funding requests, program planning and development, ongoing management, internal discussions, and evaluation. [142] Logic models allow a SART to examine their system as a coordinated whole to address overall strategies. This may help identify gaps and point to resources and activities needed to achieve the outcomes a SART has identified as priorities. Having a visual representation of how an “input” relates to “impact” can help SARTs more effectively share goals, advocate for specific resources, share results of their efforts, support community engagement, focus prevention efforts, and promote the SART.

SARTs can develop a logic model during the beginning phases of forming the group, right after the group is formed, or during strategic planning. It is important to revisit the logic model regularly to ensure the information remains consistent and up to date with current-day realities.

Logic models may help SARTs develop cohesion around common goals, objectives, and vision. Team members may be participating on a SART for various reasons, and different disciplines may have unique objectives for what they wish to accomplish. Collaboratively developing a logic model can help SARTs articulate and focus on shared activities and objectives. The conversations required to develop a model can be helpful to identify gaps in SART work, inconsistencies in language, and additional areas for improvement related to team development and relationships. The collaborative process can be helpful for team building and can create buy-in for members to continue and pursue SART activities.

Every SART encounters unique external factors that influence their work. Taking the time to articulate external sources of support or potential challenges can help SARTs be proactive in finding solutions and best leveraging existing resources to be successful.

Logic models can have varying levels of detail and can be used for a variety of purposes, depending on if the team is newly formed, well established, seeking funding, engaged in outreach or community awareness, or planning for sustainability.

Logic models can be used to —

  • articulate to a community (or new team members) what the SART does and what it hopes to accomplish,
  • present a visual depiction of SART work, helping members verbalize and share their work,
  • explain the “theory” of why a SART is believed to serve its community by outlining how activities are linked to outcomes and impact,
  • reference when engaging in strategic planning to ensure that future work and activities will meet the desired outcomes and impact of the SART,
  • prioritize areas for evaluation, since there is frequently limited time and money for evaluation,
  • promote sustainability of a SART through the early identification of resources (inputs) and development of objectives to maintain resources and relationships,
  • better position a SART to apply for funding opportunities, which may require logic models as part of the application process, and
  • demonstrate to funders how funded activities fit into the broader scope of the SART’s work.

How Does a SART Create a Logic Model?

SARTs are encouraged to develop community-specific logic models. While referencing existing logic models for SARTs can be helpful, creating a personalized logic model for your SART takes into account the community context, local realities, and operations of your SART. Thinking of each component of the logic model as a question can help you get started, and taking notes on each question from SART members can help begin the outline needed to create a logic model. Creating logic models as a team may require an experienced facilitator to help the group stay focused on the big picture, careful notetaking, and a clear understanding among all members of how decisions will be made if there are disagreements.

Logic models are most effective and accurate when there is buy-in. Using a large chalkboard, whiteboard, visual, or appropriate accommodation so all team members have access to the information throughout the process increases transparency of the process. SARTs developing logic models should set realistic expectations around timeframes.

While the idea of a logic model is not complicated, members often care deeply about the language used throughout. It is important to have conversations around shared language, or other aspects of the model, to reach agreement, even if it is time consuming.

Questions to pose to members of a SART:

Inputs

Activities

Outputs

Outcomes

Impact

What do we need to operate a SART?

What are the activities that make up our SART work?

What immediate products result from our SART work?

What results do we hope our SART activities achieve?

What is the overall goal our SART is trying to accomplish?

Assumptions

External Factors

What do we believe about the people, processes, and strategies related to our SART work? How do we think our SART work can improve our community?

What existing factors in the community may impact our ability to engage in SART work and create our desired impact? (These can be positive or negative factors.)

When developing a logic model during SART formation, it may be helpful to start by asking about the desired impact and outcomes and then determining which activities, outputs, and inputs are needed to accomplish them.

If a SART is already operating, it may be most helpful to start by defining inputs, activities, and outputs as these are based on current circumstances and known to SART members.

While creating a logic model, any time an arrow is drawn from one box to another (e.g., from an activity to an outcome), it suggests that the one leads to another. Make sure that activities will lead to your desired outcomes. For example, will increased community networking really lead to more victim-centered responses? Discuss how to reach any conclusions and whether evidence supports them. Outlining this process can be helpful, as groups may be implementing some activities to achieve certain outcomes, but could find that these activities or outcomes may not be related to the overall impact of the SART. This provides an opportunity for SARTs to modify activities or redefine their outcomes or impact and can improve existing SART operations.

Thinking through the process to create a logic model can be more manageable when focusing on one activity or impact of a program. For example, the tables below show one activity that helps to support the healing and recovery of victims:

Activities

Outputs

Short-Term Outcome

Mid-Term Outcome

Long-Term Outcome

Impact

Establish and disseminate SART Protocol

Materials developed; professionals trained; agencies adopting procedures

Improved trauma- informed and victim- centered processes

Better treatment of victims (increased support)

Increased empowerment of victims

Support for the healing and recovery of victims

Reduce secondary trauma

Assumptions

External Factors

Training and changes in guidelines and procedures will affect how professionals interact with victims.

Agencies may be at different stages of readiness to implement guidelines and procedures.

This graphical depiction could be explained as follows: If a SART develops trauma-informed, victim-centered protocols, then they can train all service providers and agencies to that standard. These efforts would lead to trauma-informed, victim-centered services that support the healing and recovery of victims.

This example is an overview of a general goal. SARTs may make their inputs and related next steps as broad or specific as they deem necessary. Consulting the logic model during difficult decision-making processes might help SARTs clarify next steps. It is important to note that agencies are at different stages of readiness to implement guidelines and procedures and that addressing barriers and challenges may be important to increase the likelihood that training and agency changes will influence how professionals and systems interact with victims.

The following considerations may be helpful when creating a logic model collaboratively as a SART:

  • Consider setting ground rules or guidelines before beginning the process of creating a logic model, so all members are clear about the goal of the process and expectations for interaction.
  • Allocate sufficient time to allow for discussions and diverse opinions; this can take more time than assumed.
  • Acknowledge dynamics of power and privilege between members of a SART when working together as a group, and work to proactively engage all voices.
  • Draw upon the expertise of the group to help facilitate, define terminology, and design the graphic for the logic model.
  • An outside facilitator or program evaluator may help to guide the process of creating a logic model and allow for a more shared power dynamic in a group setting.

Logic Model Resources

Evaluating the Work of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Programs in the Criminal Justice System: A Toolkit for Practitioners (PDF, 122 pages)

This toolkit provides several sample logic models that may be useful to SARTs. Each logic model is presented as a chart and as a diagram so each SANE program can choose the form that works best for their needs. These logic models are not copyrighted and can be used or modified to best meet the needs of your program.

Logic Model Builder

This tool developed by the Child Welfare Information Gateway guides users through the process of developing a customized logic model (requires user to establish an account).

An Example of Creating a SART Logic Model (Microsoft Word, 3 pages)

This sample SART logic model is intended to illustrate what information might appear in each column. SARTs seeking to develop logic models are encouraged to consult organizations or individuals with experience in developing logic models so they meet their local and specific needs.

The University of Wisconsin – Extension

The University of Wisconsin – Extension provides multiple logic model resources from their homepage including logic model examples and templates and an interactive training.

Using Logic Models for Planning Primary Prevention Programs

This interactive web training from PreventConnect provides training on logic models specifically for sexual assault providers and lists many additional resources.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Logic Model Development Guide

This guide was developed to provide practical assistance to nonprofits engaged in this process. It gives staff of nonprofits and community members alike sufficient orientation to the underlying principles of "logic modeling" to use this tool to enhance their program planning, implementation, and dissemination activities.

Evaluation

Evaluation can continue to provide information that enhances your SART’s ability to make a meaningful impact. Evaluation can serve as an opportunity for SARTs to monitor their effectiveness as a team, refine their practices and protocol, assess their impact on victim support and offender accountability, and identify potential areas of improvement. [143] SART evaluation findings shed light on what practices are correlated with high levels of meaningful collaboration. In addition, demonstrating effectiveness can be an invaluable tool to obtain buy-in from potential new partners who may have initially declined to participate on a SART. [144]

Evaluation activities can happen throughout the life of a SART and are essential to planning, developing, and sustaining a successful SART. There are many styles of evaluation that may or may not require the help of an “outside” evaluator, or hired evaluator. Your SART can plan and evaluate itself, and choose to enlist the help of a professional evaluator when resources are available.

The intention of this section of the SART Toolkit is to help SARTs understand enough about evaluation to use basic activities to understand how the SART is working, and know when and where to ask for additional help.

This section of the SART Toolkit will help your SART move forward with evaluation:

  • Refer to your goals and decide what you want to assess and why — develop simple, clear question(s).
  • Select an evaluation design to fit your SART’s needs (“basic process evaluation” through “advanced process and outcome evaluation”).
  • Determine the type of data to collect and collection methods that will be useful and feasible.
  • Determine the need for external help with evaluation planning and implementation. What type of assistance or expertise is needed for what types of tasks? Plan for the cost of this assistance.
  • Consider ways staff might be involved that will permit them to gain an understanding of how other programs or systems function. How will this knowledge increase their ability to collaborate? Which tasks, if done by team members, will build trust between members?
  • How can evaluation activities enhance relationships with people in the community? How can evaluation activities be used to improve victims’ access to services, especially in diverse populations that do not often seek help?
  • Identify resources in your community to support evaluation, including existing data that may be available.
  • Consider the limitations of the evaluation: What or who will not be included?
  • Consider timeframes for data collection, review of results, and data-to-action planning.

Why Should SARTs Incorporate Evaluation into their Practices?

Research suggests that SARTs that participate in evaluation and continuous improvement can increase positive outcomes for sexual assault victims. [145] SARTs that engage in evaluation have reported a perceived growth in positive outcomes, such as an increase in victim satisfaction with services, greater reliability of evidence collection, more law enforcement reports, and more prosecutions. [146]

SARTs are designed to work as a cohesive system of multiple service providers and voices. A SART’s success or struggle is never due to only one stakeholder at the table. Therefore, it is important to remind your SART that evaluation is being used as a tool for improving your SART and ultimately improving outcomes for victims, which requires everyone at the table to work together to be the best cohesive system possible.

Why Evaluate?

  • SARTs that perform evaluation tend to have better outcomes than those that do not.

  • Evaluation enables SARTs to improve their services and outcomes.

  • Data enable SARTs to engage stakeholders, including the community, new members, and possible funders through sharing findings.

  • Evaluation allows SARTs to identify gaps in services and better meet victims’ needs

  • SARTs can track effects of systems change.

Gathering Stakeholders for Evaluation Planning

It is important to engage all SART members in some aspects of evaluation planning, including the top executives from member organizations and community leaders at all steps of the evaluation planning.

While not everyone on your SART will be as engaged with evaluation activities, it is important for everyone to be informed and involved when you identify what to evaluate, develop a plan for evaluation, and finalize your plan before implementation, as well as while you are collecting and analyzing data and developing reports.

By soliciting the interests and priorities of stakeholders early in the evaluation process, evaluation results are more likely to meet everyone’s specific information needs and serve a variety of purposes, from improving program effectiveness to affecting policy decisions.

In addition to clarifying the specific information needs and interests of stakeholder groups, it is important to consider what you want to learn from stakeholders:

  • Identify your core stakeholders. Which stakeholders are most important to include in the evaluation planning process? Should you actively include them as core members of the evaluation team, provide opportunities for periodic review and feedback, or something in between?
  • Prioritize your SART's outcomes based on all stakeholders' concerns and needs. What outcomes do funders want to see? What outcomes do law enforcement and prosecution want to see? What do advocates want to see? Ask about their views on existing services or recommendations for improvements. Ask them about any concerns they may have about the focus or goals of an evaluation at this time. Ask them how they would like to be involved.
  • Collaborate with all stakeholders when developing your measurement tool. Involve funders, SART agencies, culturally specific community organizations, institutions of higher education, faith organizations, and allied professionals such as researchers, public health officials, and policymakers. Their inclusion will help ensure the information gained is used to make meaningful change.

Stakeholder Engagement Resources

Stakeholder Engagement Tools for Action [147] (PDF, 60 pages)

This resource from the Western and Pacific Child Welfare Implementation Center and the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services provides information and action steps for engaging stakeholders.

What Is an Evaluation Plan?

It is a good idea to organize the components of your evaluation by putting together an evaluation plan. Evaluation plans can be complex or simple. Although professional evaluators often develop very long and detailed plans, you will probably find that a shorter version that quickly summarizes your evaluation is faster, more useful, and more feasible to create.

An evaluation plan is a written document used to describe the purpose of the evaluation, scope of what is being evaluated, details regarding how the evaluation will be completed (e.g., data collection and analysis), and how and with whom the results will be shared.

In defining purpose and scope, the evaluation plan and evaluation activities should be anchored to three foundational components:

  1. Evaluation goals: Broad statements about what your SART expects to achieve as a result of your evaluation.

    1. Example: “To ensure the SART’s victim-centered approach meets the immediate needs of the victims with crisis intervention and support services.”
  2. Evaluation objectives: Specific statements to be measured to achieve your evaluation goals.
    1. Example: “To assess the extent to which law enforcement responders provide information and referrals to victims.”
  3. Evaluation questions: Questions that answer what you would like to know about your SART program components, activities, and outcomes. Evaluation questions should reflect your stated goals and objectives and guide the rest of evaluation planning. 

    1. Example: “What percentage of local law enforcement responders provide information and referrals to victims, even when the report does not meet the criteria of a crime?”

The remaining components of an evaluation plan include indicators of success, data sources, data collection methods, evaluation timeline, data analysis and management, and report sharing. Each component of the evaluation plan builds upon the previous component to ensure all aspects of the plan logically link together and work collectively to answer the evaluation question.

Below is an overview of these steps:

  • Select indicators that can answer the evaluation question and demonstrate change.
  • Identify data sources, based on whether they measure the selected indicators.
    • Are you currently collecting the data to answer the question or do you need to develop new data collection activities?
  • Identify data collection methods that fit the goals of the evaluation and capacity of the SART.
  • Establish a timeline for data collection activities, in coordination with your SART program's implementation timeline and SART activities outlined in the logic model. The timeline is largely dictated by what you want to know by when. Timelines will be unique to the SART, the data collection methods, and the context or circumstances surrounding the need to evaluate.
  • Develop a data analysis plan based on the evaluation question the data is trying to answer, the data source and collection parameters, data management, and the timeline that the data will be received, or the findings that will be shared. A data analysis plan includes applying analytical and logical analysis to data sets to illustrate, condense, and recap data. A data analysis plan might simply include counting totals and discussing trends or may include a statistical analysis by a researcher in combination with the SART’s interpretation and feedback.
  • Share a description of the project with stakeholders, including who evaluation findings will be shared with and how evaluation findings will be shared.

Who Conducts the Evaluation?

SARTs can conduct their own evaluation, work with a TA provider to develop an evaluation plan, hire an evaluator, or partner with a local campus community to complete the evaluation.

SARTs can conduct an evaluation in three different ways:

  • Conduct the evaluation using SART members and local agency or program staff.
  • Hire an evaluation consultant to design and conduct the evaluation.
  • Hire an outcome evaluation consultant to work with the SART to perform or assist with tasks where the team lacks expertise. [148]

Most often, SARTs that conduct self-evaluations collect results about perception of team work.

What Should You Evaluate?

SARTs are unique across the country and engage in community-specific variations of similar work. Evaluating how your team functions (process) and whether it is ultimately meeting its goals (outcomes) are both important. SARTs can use evaluation as a tool to gain insight so efforts are focused, intentional, and productive.

It is up to your SART to determine what questions to ask and what information you think will be most useful to your team and your ability to meet your mission. Different types of evaluation require different timelines, both to collect data and to review results. Some evaluations, particularly those focused on sustainable systems change, may take years to ensure the goals have been met, while other evaluations, such as measuring a kit backlog, may take a few months.

When beginning any evaluation, it is important to ask, “What is the question we want to answer?” and develop a clear, specific question that may include a time range. Developing a clear, specific question may be difficult for teams that have varying perceptions of the work and that may value feedback on different aspects of the work. When teams sit down to discuss evaluation, the process of identifying the right question may take multiple meetings and require feedback from all agencies in addition to the SART members.

SART evaluations can focus on two areas:

  • Process-focused

    • Assess the quality of the SART’s multidisciplinary team relationships.
    • Assess the team's infrastructure and its development of SART guidelines and protocols.
    • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your team's administrative functions.
    • Document your accomplishments so you may build on what is working well.
    • Identify ongoing issues and areas for improvement.
  • Outcome-focused
    • Describe what is happening that was not expected.
    • Assess how service providers and victims interact.
    • Describe emerging issues and how they are being addressed.
    • Describe both short- and long-term outcomes associated with the team's activities.
    • Assess the impact of multidisciplinary collaboration on victims' experiences and criminal and civil justice outcomes.

FOR EXAMPLE

A team member goes to a training on working with interpreters and wonders how their own SART is doing in this area. Team members could give anecdotes, compare policies, or decide to do an evaluation. Some examples of questions the team may include in their evaluation are listed below. The team would NOT try to answer all the questions in their evaluation of their work with interpreters.

  • Do we work with interpreters? How often do we work with interpreters?
  • What languages are we requesting from interpreters?
  • Do people frequently discuss sexual assault in this language?
  • Do the interpreters know how to or feel comfortable translating information related to sexual assault?
  • Does our SART need to work directly with interpreters to provide training?
  • Is the pool of interpreters we are calling consistent with our community?
  • Are different agencies working with individuals who speak different languages?
  • What is victims’ perception of SART members’ ability to work with interpreters?
  • Are the SART members following protocol related to interpreters?
  • Does the SART have a protocol?
  • Is the protocol effective?
  • Are all SART members following the protocol? When and why do SART members need to break protocol? Does the protocol reflect current practice?
  • Does every agency offer interpretation services?
  • Can we pool our resources to enhance services to victims? Do we know if the interpreters are trauma informed? Are the interpreters providing the SART accurate interpretation?
  • How do we know?
  • Do victims feel supported while waiting for an interpreter?
  • Do victims feel safer with an in-person interpreter or over the phone?
  • How do we do a safety check with victims to ensure there is no conflict with the interpreter?
  • How do victims perceive our team’s fluidity when working with interpreters?
  • Do we need to improve this process?

As you can see, coming up with questions is not difficult; however, narrowing the list and selecting the questions that are most important to your SART may be more challenging. Having an outside facilitator for these conversations may be helpful to monitor and move the conversation forward.

Once your SART determines a clear, specific question you want to answer, your team can select the best type of evaluation to collect the information you are seeking.

There is no single "best" approach that can be used in all situations because the methods of collecting and analyzing data vary based on the question and the information you are seeking. Often choosing the correct evaluation method(s) to answer the question is one of the most difficult tasks.

Types of Evaluation

The type of evaluation to use depends on the question your SART is trying to answer.

Evaluation Type

When to Use

What It Shows

Why It Is Useful

Process Evaluation

  • As soon as SART program implementation begins
  • During operation of an existing SART program
  • How your team functions
  • How well the SART program is working
  • The extent to which the SART protocols are being implemented as planned
  • Whether the program is reaching its intended population
  • Provides early warning for any problems that may occur
  • Allows SARTs to monitor how well their program plans and activities are working
  • Supports replication by others
  • Identifies team issues that may reduce its ability to make change

Outcome Evaluation

  • After the SART program has made contact with at least one victim
  • During the operation of an existing SART program at appropriate intervals
  • The degree to which the SART program meets its goals and mission
  • Victim experiences with first responders
  • The intended and unintended long-term impacts of your team’s approach
  • Impact of the team on reports of sexual assault
  • Effectiveness in connecting victims with systems
  • Tells whether the SART program is being effective in meeting objectives
  • Provides evidence for use in policy and funding decisions
  • Provides evidence for additional systems change

Process Evaluation

A process evaluation looks at how your SART functions and helps explain why your SART is meeting its goals and objectives (or not).

Process evaluation examines how SARTs operate related to interagency working environments, infrastructure, activates, and implementation, as further explored below.

Interagency Working Environments

Evaluating your team's working environment can include assessing whether your team has a shared interagency mission, the effectiveness of its decision-making process, and the ways it communicates and manages conflict. A process evaluation would provide important information about where changes are needed to improve the team's functioning. Research has shown that a team’s working climate is integral to its success, and that teams that handle conflict can more creatively solve problems and make necessary changes. [149]

Infrastructure

Infrastructure can refer to how your team is organized, the skills and strengths of team members, and the effectiveness of team leadership. Assessing infrastructure is important because there is a positive correlation between strong, effective infrastructure and organizational capacity and team effectiveness.

Activities

Activities can be described as what you do to fulfill your mission — the specific tasks SART members engage in to meet a client’s needs. These activities could be referrals to the local crisis center, the medical forensic exam, trauma-informed interviewing, hospital intake, or contact by prosecution.

SART Implementation

Process evaluation may also focus on understanding how something worked to help you answer questions such as —

  • what is your SART currently doing?
  • was the program, policy, or protocol consistently followed? How do you stick to the implementation plan?
  • were there any organizational or (other) factors that inhibited (or promoted) implementation?
  • what were the stumbling blocks faced along the way?
  • who is receiving SART services?
  • is there any group of people not being assisted by this SART? Why?
  • how satisfied are service recipients?
  • how are team members using available data?
  • where, when, and why do agencies deviate from the protocol?
  • are there trends appearing? Do these need to be addressed?
  • is the policy, program, or protocol trauma-informed? Culturally sensitive?
  • are there emerging issues not previously considered (statutory changes or technological and scientific advances in evidence collection)?

Evaluating how protocols, policies, and practices are implemented is critical to an effective team response. If changes are implemented as planned, it is easier to measure outcomes and assess the impact of actions taken. If changes are not implemented as planned, the team can begin to explore why this is occurring. This information may be helpful in revising the implementation plan and adapting the policy, practice or protocol to fit the diverse needs of survivors or resources of agencies and programs.

Process Evaluation Resources

Developing Process Evaluation Questions [150] (PDF, 2 pages)

This evaluation brief by the Evaluation Research Team at the CDC explains how to define evaluation questions and provides steps to develop evaluation questions.

A Process Evaluation of Sexual Violence Advocates [151] (PDF, 48 pages)

This evaluation report by Independent Sexual Violence Advisors examines the implantation and impact of their services.

Outcome Evaluation

Outcome evaluations assess the direct effects of your SART. Outcomes measure change. Outcome evaluations look specifically at whether SARTs achieve their goals and if their activities had the intended effect for victims, offenders, the community, and service providers. At the end of the day, what is different or better in the lives of the people you serve?

Outcome evaluation asks if your SART program is getting the results you expected:

  • What is your SART trying to impact or change?
  • What are your goals and outcomes?
  • How do SART processes and programs help achieve the goals and outcomes?
  • Did victims feel supported by the SART throughout the process?
  • As a result of your SART program, did you meet your outcomes?

An outcome evaluation requires an in-depth understanding of the SART program design, often illustrated through a logic model. The logic model can help with the evaluation to —

  • understand the kind of change desired and how that change could occur,
  • operationalize the definition of the desired change,
  • identify appropriate indicators that can measure the change, and
  • determine the feasibility of the program to produce the desired change.

Outcome evaluation may be conducted at different points during the life of your SART program. It complements ongoing process evaluation, which is grounded in regularly scheduled reviews of implementation processes and progress made toward time-bound achievements. By contrast, outcome evaluation provides an overarching analysis of SART performance and whether changes can be attributed to the SART program.

Evaluation can also identify unintended outcomes. For example, if one of your SART goals was to increase the number of sexual assault cases investigated by law enforcement, you may now see a backlog in the processing of medical forensic examination kits.

At first glance, the unintended outcome is positive (more investigations and prosecution of cases), but that result can have a ripple effect on limited resources. How might a backlog in the processing of kits be impacting the goal of increasing the number of investigations conducted? A negative outcome (e.g., limited resources) can prove invaluable if you use the results to revise policies or inform policymakers and funders about evolving needs.

Evaluation Resources

Assessing the Sexual Assault System Response in Hennepin County (PDF, 90 pages)

This evaluation by the Hennepin County SMARTeam is an example of a team assessing their community’s needs and the team’s response to sexual assault.

An Evaluation of the Rhode Island Sexual Assault Response Team [152] (PDF, 63 pages)

This evaluation conducted by Doug Wilson and Andrew Klein serves as an example of a SART evaluation.

Sustaining a Coordinated Community Response [153] (PDF, 102 pages)

This guide by End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) will help communities respond to sexual assault and improve coordination of services. It explains what a SART is and how to create one.

The Three Ts of Mission Accountability for Improved SART Outcomes (PDF, 4 pages)

This tool helps guide SARTs from transactional habits to transformational practices.

Tools for Evaluating & Assessing Your SART/SANE Program (PDF, 25 pages)

This Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) program provides sample surveys to evaluate common professionals who make up a SART. This tool provides SARTs with a sample or starting point to develop something that will work for their local needs.

Victim-Centered Responsibilities Matrix (PDF, 4 pages)

This matrix, adapted from Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Program for Communities Responding to Sexual Assault can help your SART determine primary responsibilities for members.

SART-Related Outcomes

The role of the SART is to provide timely, victim-centered, trauma-informed services to sexual assault victims, while working together in a collaborative manner to improve the community’s sexual assault response and service provision.

Outcomes describe the expected effectiveness of the SART policies, practices, and programs. SART program outcomes include the result of the coordinated services by the SART, such as impacts on the victim or criminal justice results. For example, training on the impact of trauma for victims and a trauma-informed response could help law enforcement and prosecutors more effectively work with victims of sexual assault. Victims who feel more comfortable and understood are more willing to engage with the criminal justice system and participate in the investigative process, thereby impacting law enforcement and criminal justice outcomes.

Outcomes can parallel ongoing process evaluation by looking at the team cohesion, process, and evaluation of care within the SART. Several categories of outcomes for the SART exist: [154]

  • Multidisciplinary outcomes: To improve and maintain the SART sustainability and ability to make cross-system change.
  • Advocacy outcomes: To enhance the quality of a person’s experience of seeking help after a sexual assault.
  • Medical outcomes: To provide quality comprehensive medical care to patients who have been sexually assaulted.
  • Law enforcement outcomes: To facilitate reporting and investigation of sexual assault.
  • Prosecution outcomes: To increase offender accountability and system processes and to increase victim satisfaction in participation.

SARTs achieve systems change by identifying opportunities to increase victim-centered services and decrease secondary victimization. Secondary victimization, such as victim-blaming behavior and withholding of or denial of available services, intensifies the trauma of sexual assault and is associated with costly, negative health outcomes, including but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, suicide, sexual risk-taking behaviors, addiction, and eating disorders. [155]

SARTs that perform evaluations report perceived increases in services to underserved populations, [156] suggesting that evaluation activities can be designed and executed to improve victim support and the SART’s responsiveness to the community’s unserved or underserved populations. Structuring through evaluation allows SARTs to tailor process to such groups, which an increase in for ensureing victim support and structuring accountabilityence prevention) include but are not limited to males, people with limited English proficiency, victims in rural areas or in correctional settings, victims of color, victims who identify as LGBTQ, victims who are assaulted abroad and report at home, and victims with complex needs.

SART Indicators of Success

Indicators are visible signs of progress — they can be used to determine whether your SART is on its way to achieving the expected outcomes your team has chosen to evaluate.

Indicators are commonly used to describe, monitor, set goals, advocate, and evaluate, and to provide information to agencies and organizations accountable for processes and outcomes. A good indicator is measurable, relevant, understandable, and useable. [157] If your team has already developed objectives in the S.M.A.R.T. format, then you have a jumpstart on indicator development. The Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s Planning It Out [158] page contains tools to create indicators from SMART objectives.

If your indicators are S.M.A.R.T., they are —

  • specific: What are we measuring? Indicators should use clear, unambiguous terms that describe clearly what is being measured.
  • measurable: How will we know? Indicators should have the capacity to be counted, observed, analyzed, tested, or challenged.
  • attainable: Can these indicators be measured, given the timeframe, resources, and capacity of the team? Can the required data and information be collected?
  • relevant: Should this be measured and why? Indicators should be connected to the SART objectives and goals.
  • time-oriented: When will this be done? The indicator should state when it will be measured.

You can use different types of indicators to measure your SART performance, depending on what SART outcomes you identify. For example, you may want to assess if team meetings promote increased knowledge of community resources. One indicator is that team members report increased knowledge of available community resources. Another potential indicator is that referrals to community resources have increased.

Process indicators reflect whether a SART program is being carried out as planned and how well SART activities are being carried out. They can also measure how well a team is collaborating across systems — trust levels, communication frequency, and leadership strength. Process indicators are often reported in the form of a number. These are clearly stated measurable results of the groundwork necessary for achieving one or more long-term outcomes. Examples include —

  • number and type of services provided,
  • number of training sessions, and
  • number of education materials developed.

Outcome indicators relate to change that is demonstrated because of the team’s efforts. Outcome indicators help to answer the question: What is different in the lives of victims, offenders, and the community because of our efforts? They can measure a SART program’s level of success in improving service accessibility, utilization, or quality. These types of indicators are often reported as percentages or rates, such as the percentage of the sexual assault victims seeking services. Data for outcome indicators often come from censuses, surveys, or existing agency databases.

Outcome indicators are specific and measurable data used to answer evaluation questions. Examples include —

  • increased number of reports investigated,
  • increased number of victims connected to advocates,
  • increased diversity in survivors accessing services, and
  • decreased accounts of victim-blaming.

Using Your Program Planning Logic Model to Establish Your Evaluation Indicators

The selection of indicators can be informed and supported by the activities and outcomes described in your logic model. You can also identify data collection activities for indicators through the SART activities outlined in your logic model. Using your logic model to support indicator selection helps ensure that indicators logically connect to your SART program goals.

Indicator selection should be anchored to evaluation questions and expected outcomes of your SART program. An indicator should either contribute necessary information to answer evaluation questions or explain evaluation findings. Just as evaluation questions reflect evaluation goals and objectives, indicators selected based on evaluation questions should therefore also measure evaluation objectives to show whether evaluation goals were achieved. 


Clearly outlining your SART needs and use of findings related to the evaluation allows a checkpoint during indicator selection to assess if the indicator is meaningful and relevant for your team. This can be useful when identifying indicators that directly answer the evaluation questions or help to explain evaluation findings. [159]

Multidisciplinary, Team-Level Evaluation

Collaboration within a group is a continuous partnership, where professionals with diverse backgrounds and various experiences unify to solve challenging problems, maintain a service, or accomplish a common goal. [160] A SART’s main function is to promote collaboration between service providers to address inadequacies and limitations in and among systems to ensure appropriate, trauma-informed responses to the crime of sexual assault that supports victims and structures offender accountability in every case. [161]

To achieve this successful collaboration, all team members must understand the four competencies for cross-system collaboration practice: roles and responsibilities, ethics and values, communication, and teamwork/teams. [162] Acknowledging the roles and responsibilities of each profession and appropriate communication can help build team relationships and maintain sustainability. [163]

Multidisciplinary Evaluation

To ensure a coordinated team approach to sexual assault that affords each victim access to needed services.

   

Low*

Medium**

High***

  • Formal SART facilitator/coordinator position
  • Centralized location for collaborative activities
  • Multidisciplinary teams containing foundational SART members and other recommended partners (such as emergency departments)
  • Collaboration and cross-system coordination of services between service providers
  • Regular SART meetings
  • Institutionalization of regular case review
  • Ongoing, institutionalization of mutual/cross-trainings
  • Formalized policies, practices, and protocol
  • Team member understanding of laws within various professions and disciplines and clarified roles [164]
  • Team members’ participation in SART meetings and other activities
  • Team communication plan
  • Language accessibility and effective use of interpreters
  • Internal document review (e.g., policies and practices, contracts, formalized agreements, mission statement, meeting minutes)
  • # of cases referred to community-based services.
  • # and types of services provided
  • Team member attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge and understanding

Process evaluation (basic)

  • Tracking sheets for meetings (attendees, date)
  • Checklists
  • Document review
  • Simple surveys (e.g., victim satisfaction)
  • Rely on external resources (e.g., donated space)

Process evaluation (intermediate)

  • More detailed tracking of information
  • Protocol fidelity
  • Case file reviews

Outcome evaluation (basic or intermediate)

  • Pre/post surveys

Process evaluation (intermediate or advanced)

  • More advanced statistics and tracking

Outcome evaluation (intermediate or advanced)

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Follow-up data collection

* Little or no money, one person responsible for coordination and evaluation, no time for evaluation and no experience with evaluation

** Little or no money, people who can help with data entry, basic understanding of surveys and using spreadsheets or online surveys

*** Paid staff or volunteer time allocated for evaluation, formal funding

Advocacy Response Evaluation

Advocates provide resources and support from the beginning to the end by being trauma-informed and empowering people who have been sexually assaulted.

When advocacy and coordinated community responses are involved in cases, victims — [165]

  • are more likely to receive services,
  • have decreased PTSD symptom severity, depression, and fear,
  • express greater readiness to leave the abuser if in an abusive relationship,
  • report improved experience with police, and
  • demonstrate greater engagement with prosecution (court attendance and case disposition).

Advocacy Services Evaluation

To ensure that the physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of the victim will be given strong consideration throughout the sexual assault examination, investigation, and prosecution.

 

Types of Indicators

Types of Data

Evaluation Options

   

Low*

Medium**

High***

  • Dissemination of information for victims
  • Education for victims
  • Support to victims and help with understanding options and decisions
  • Victim access to other resources and service providers
  • Referrals
  • Advocacy accompaniment
  • Help to victims navigating medical system
  • Help to victims navigating legal system
  • Outreach and service to diverse populations
  • Language accessibility and effective use of interpreters
  • # of community referrals
  • # and types of services provided
  • Demographic info about victims
  • Type of assault
  • Relationship of perpetrators to victims
  • # of victims served who reported to law enforcement
  • # of victims served who did not report to law enforcement
  • Victim satisfaction

Process evaluation (basic)

  • Tracking sheets
  • Simple surveys (e.g., victim satisfaction)
  • Rely on external resources (e.g., donated space)

Process evaluation (intermediate)

  • More detailed tracking
  • Protocol implementation tracking

Outcome evaluation (basic or intermediate)

  • Pre/post surveys

Process evaluation (intermediate or advanced)

  • More advanced statistics and tracking

Outcome evaluation (intermediate or advanced)

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Observation
  • Follow-up data collection

* Little or no money, one person responsible for coordination and evaluation, no time for evaluation and no experience with evaluation

** Little or no money, people who can help with data entry, basic understanding of surveys and using spreadsheets or online surveys

*** Paid staff or volunteer time allocated for evaluation, formal funding

Sample Measurement Tools

Advocate Survey (PDF, 2 pages)

This survey is one of many surveys provided in Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape’s Tools for Evaluating & Assessing Your SART/SANE Program. This tool provides SARTs with a sample or starting point to develop something that will work for their local needs.

OVC's Program Evaluation Resources

OVC provides a number of tools and resources to assist with evaluation.

Medical Response Evaluation

Sexual assault forensic examiners (SAFEs) provide quality care and evidence collection. Research demonstrates that when SARTs coordinate with SAFEs — [166]

  • victims are more likely to file a police report and report more quickly,
  • more evidence (DNA evidence in particular) is available,
  • victim participation is higher, and
  • victims report less distress from participating in the legal system and at emergency room discharge. [167]

Medical Response Evaluation

To ensure personal safety and the prompt, compassionate, comprehensive health care needs of the sexual assault victim.

Types of Indicators

Types of Data

Evaluation Options

   

Low*

Medium**

High***

  • # of victims seeing medical professionals with sexual-assault-specific training
  • # of victims being aware of reporting options
  • # of victims receiving complete medical attention and being offered: timely exam; adequate and timely evidence collection; STD/HIV prophylaxis; pregnancy prevention; follow‐up care and compliance.
  • # of victims connected to advocates
  • Sexual assault evidence collection kit quality standards met
  • Victim-centered approaches (e.g., decreased instances of victim-blaming)
  • Language accessibility and effective use of interpreters
  • # of forensic medical examinations performed
  • # and types of kits collected
  • # and types of services provided
  • Data on quality of evidence collected by forensic examiners
  • # of victims seen at campus health services
  • # of victims seen at Indian Health Services
  • # of health care providers subpoenaed to testify

Process evaluation (basic)

  • Tracking sheets
  • Simple surveys (e.g., victim satisfaction)
  • Rely on external resources (e.g., donated space)

Process evaluation (intermediate)

  • More detailed tracking
  • Protocol fidelity

Outcome evaluation (basic or intermediate)

  • Pre/post surveys

Process evaluation (intermediate or advanced)

  • More advanced statistics and tracking

Outcome evaluation (intermediate or advanced)

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Observation
  • Follow-up data collection

* Little or no money, one person responsible for coordination and evaluation, no time for evaluation, or no experience with evaluation

** Little or no money, people who can help with data entry, basic understanding of surveys and using spreadsheets or online surveys

*** Paid staff or volunteer time allocated for evaluation, formal funding

Sample Measurement Tools for Medical Processionals

Evaluating the Work of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Programs in The Criminal Justice System: A Toolkit for Practitioners [168] (PDF, 227 pages)

This toolkit by a team of researchers including Rebecca Campbell, Megan Greeson, Nidal Karim, Jessica Shaw, and Stephanie Townsend is intended to guide SANE program staff in evaluating their program, particularly its impact on prosecution rates of sexual assault.

Patient Care Satisfaction Survey [169] (Microsoft Word, 2 pages)

This survey from the Coalition Against Sexual Assault in North Dakota is distributed to patients to determine their level of care.

SANE Empowering Care Survey (PDF, 3 pages)

This survey developed by Rebecca Campbell, Ph.D., Debra Patterson, MSW, MA and Adrienne Adams, MA helps SARTs get feedback on services provided by a sexual assault nurse examiner.

SANE Program Evaluation [170]

This program by the National Institute of Justice evaluates the services provided to sexual assault victims in their first contact with health care professionals.

SART Nurse Survey (PDF, 3 pages)

This survey is one of many provided in PCAR’s Tools for Evaluating & Assessing Your SART/SANE Program. This tool provides SARTs with a sample or starting point to develop something that will work for their local needs.

Law Enforcement Response Evaluation

It is essential for law enforcement professionals to investigate all the facts and maintain a rapport with the sexually assaulted person. A victim of sexual assault who has been treated with fairness, dignity, compassion, and respect is more likely to support the investigation and prosecution processes. Stronger victim involvement will result in an increase in the apprehension, prosecution, and conviction of sexual offenders. SART intervention is a factor in the identification and arrest of suspects and the strongest predictor that charges will be filed. [171]

Law Enforcement Services Evaluation

To ensure the quality and integrity of the sexual assault investigation.

Types of Indicators

Types of Data

Evaluation Options

   

Low*

Medium**

High***

  • # of reports taken
  • # of reports investigated
  • Timeliness of police contacts with victims
  • # of reports referred to prosecution
  • # of victims being connected to an advocate
  • Instances of secondary victimization victims experience from professionals
  • Maintenance of proper chain of custody of evidence and submit evidence for processing
  • Proportion of cases resulting in arrest
  • Use of trauma-informed interviewing (Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview)
  • Victim-centered approaches (e.g., decreased instances of victim-blaming)
  • Language accessibility and effective use of interpreters
  • # of sexual assault forensic medical collection kits processed by crime labs
  • # of suspect evidence collections
  • Data on quality of evidence collected by law enforcement
  • # of cases assigned for investigation
  • # of cases listed as unfounded
  • Types of assaults reported
  • Location of sexual assaults
  • Demographic info about perpetrators
  • # of cases submitted to district attorney for review
  • # of repeat offenders

Process evaluation (basic)

  • Tracking sheets
  • Simple surveys (e.g., victim satisfaction)
  • Rely on external resources (e.g., donated space)

Process evaluation (intermediate)

  • More detailed tracking
  • Protocol fidelity

Process evaluation (intermediate or advanced)

  • More advanced statistics and tracking

* Little or no money, one person responsible for coordination and evaluation, no time for evaluation, or no experience with evaluation

** Little or no money, people who can help with data entry, basic understanding of surveys and using spreadsheets or online surveys

*** Paid staff or volunteer time allocated for evaluation, formal funding

Form for Evaluating Police Response [172]

This form by the Women’s Justice Center can be used by sexual assault victims, advocates, and law enforcement to evaluate law enforcement response to sexual assault.

Law Enforcement Survey (PDF, 2 pages)

This survey is one of many provided in PCAR’s Tools for Evaluating & Assessing Your SART/SAFE Program. This tool provides SARTs with a sample or starting point to develop something that will work for their local needs.

Law Enforcement Survey (PDF, 4 pages)

This survey for police officers comes from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership by the Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Prosecution Response Services Evaluation

Research on coordinated community responses has demonstrated the positive impact of victim services on outcomes and has suggested that SART collaboration has a positive impact on victim participation in the criminal justice system. [173]

Sexual assault cases in jurisdictions with SARTs — [174]

  • are reported more quickly,
  • yield more evidence,
  • are the strongest predictor that charges will be filed,
  • are more likely to lead to arrest,
  • can have a positive impact on the defendant’s behavior,
  • keep victims better informed and engaged throughout the criminal justice process, and
  • increase the efficiency and overall response of the court system. [175]

­Prosecution Services Evaluation

To ensure coordination with the respective legal agencies to create an effective response to sexual assault.

Types of Indicators

Types of Data

Evaluation Options for Resource Levels

   

Low*

Medium**

High***

  • # of cases recommended for prosecution
  • Monitoring of court outcomes such as conviction rates, and plea deals
  • Maintenance of confidence in forensic evidence
  • Decreased instances of victim-blaming
  • Victim satisfaction in justice system response
  • Victim participation in justice system
  • Time and ability to prep SAFE for trials
  • Judicial outcomes for diverse types of victims and offenders
  • Language accessibility/effective use of interpreters
  • # of cases referred by law enforcement agencies annually
  • # of case filings
  • # of trials, pleas, sentences
  • # of disposition and trial outcomes

Process evaluation (basic)

  • Tracking sheets
  • Simple surveys (e.g., victim satisfaction)
  • Rely on external resources (e.g., donated space)

Process evaluation (intermediate)

  • More detailed tracking
  • Protocol fidelity

Outcome evaluation (basic or intermediate)

  • Pre/post surveys

Process evaluation (intermediate or advanced)

  • More advanced statistics and tracking

Outcome evaluation (intermediate or advanced)

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Observation
  • Follow-up data collection

* Little or no money, one person responsible for coordination and evaluation, no time for evaluation and no experience with evaluation

** Little or no money, people who can help with data entry, basic understanding of surveys and using spreadsheets or online surveys

*** Paid staff or volunteer time allocated for evaluation, formal funding

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Prosecution Survey (PDF, 6 pages)

This survey helps SARTs collect information about prosecution of sexual assaults and collaboration with sexual assault examiner programs, rape crisis advocates, and law enforcement.

Data Collection

Data collection is an essential piece of a SART evaluation plan. An immense amount of data can be collected by SARTs. Keep your evaluation feasible and useful by choosing methods that will give you the most accurate information without overburdening your resources and capacity. Each SART is unique, and you will need to determine what information is most useful to your team, in your community. Whenever SARTs attempt to collect or share data, victim confidentiality should be an essential consideration to ensure victim privacy and safety.

Examples of Data Collected for Evaluations

Team Characteristics

SART membership, frequency of team meetings, and whether case reviews are performed

Victim Characteristics

Age, race, socioeconomic status, gender, and level of involvement with criminal justice

SART Services

# of victims served, and types of services provided

SART Outcomes

Victim satisfaction, changes in policies or resources, # of cases referred to community-based services, team member attitudes and beliefs, knowledge and understanding

SART Advocacy Outcomes

Victim satisfaction, # of victim referrals, outreach and service to diverse populations, dissemination of information for victims, education for victims, access to other resources and service providers

SART Medical Outcomes

Victim satisfaction, # of forensic medical examinations, # and types of kits collected, # and types of services provided, data on quality of evidence collected by forensic examiners, # of health care providers subpoenaed to testify

SART Law Enforcement Outcomes

Victim satisfaction, # of kits processed by crime labs, data on quality of evidence collected by law enforcement, # of cases assigned for investigation, # of cases submitted to district attorney for review

SART Prosecution Outcomes

Victim satisfaction, # of charges, # of case filings, # of trials, pleas, sentences, # of dispositions, trial results, timeliness of response, language accessibility and use of interpreters as appropriate.

Consider the following steps before collecting data:

  • Determine what you want to know.
  • Determine what information is needed to answer that question.
  • Agree on ways to redact personally identifying information to protect confidentiality.
  • Determine if the information needed can be collected in a way that ensures confidentiality.
  • Determine how the data will be used to evaluate the interagency response.
  • Assess from whom, how frequently, and in what form the data will be collected.
  • Decide who should have access to the data for other analyses that might serve each agency differently and how that access will work.
  • Verify the reliability of data entries (clear definitions, procedures, and training).
  • Adopt a flexible data system that can accommodate evolving responses to sexual assault.
  • Create a system that is user friendly.
  • Consider what application the data will be stored in and what training may or may not be required. Simpler systems ensure continued use through fluctuations in caseload, staffing, budgets, and other variables.
  • Determine how and when the information will be shared with the SART and the community.
  • Agree on who will be involved in discussing the data and creating reports.

In other words, figure out —

  • who you will collect data from,
  • what data you will collect,
  • where you will get the data,
  • when you will collect the data, and
  • how you will store and use the data.

Types of Data to Collect

Many types of data provide useful information but may not be the most feasible to collect, given your current evaluation capacity.

There are two forms of data:

  • Quantitative data consists of numbers.
  • Qualitative data describes the meaning of something.

Pros and Cons of QUANTITATIVE Data

PROS

CONS

Collects a wide variety of information quickly.

You may miss out on more in-depth understanding of what you are evaluating.

Provides a quick “snapshot” of results for busy decision-makers.

It may not enhance the information shared with decision-makers.

You can do statistical analysis that may predict change.

Statistics are not always feasible or appropriate for evaluation.

Statistics are viewed as credible data to decision-makers.

It does not allow for community knowledge to be shared.

Tools may already exist that have been tested and validated for use in evaluation.

Data collection tools (sometimes) are not easy to develop or adapt and may not be culturally appropriate.

Pros and Cons of QUALITATIVE Data

PROS

CONS

You can gain a more in-depth understanding of what you are evaluating.

It can be resource-intensive and time-consuming to collect and study.

It can enhance the information shared with decision-makers.

Data collection requires more staff training.

Data collection tools are (usually) easier to develop.

Data analysis may require more staff training.

It allows more community knowledge to be shared.

Findings can be subject to misinterpretation (quantitative methods are not immune to this, however).

It can be more culturally appropriate.

It may be so specific that it is hard to draw broad conclusions across populations or contexts.

Data Collection Sources for SARTs (PDF, 3 pages)

This document, adapted by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, provides examples of the type of data you can collect from different agencies.

Data Collection Methods

Gathering Interagency Data

Information is power, and SARTs have the potential to compare and contrast information from many agencies. Anytime SARTs share information, it is essential to ensure the information shared does not breach confidentiality of individual victims, including leading to potential identification of victims.

To understand the scope of sexual assault in your jurisdiction, you can pull data from —

  • rape crisis centers,
  • hotlines and emergency call centers,
  • law enforcement,
  • hospitals and other health care facilities,
  • prosecution and court systems,
  • institutional settings (e.g., campuses, military facilities, correctional facilities),
  • culturally specific organizations,
  • elder services and teen centers,
  • substance abuse and mental health treatment centers, and
  • domestic violence programs.

If your SART chooses to collect interagency data, you will need to determine if this is the best way to answer the questions you want to answer and if your team members and home organizations are willing to commit resources and information to data collection for whatever time period your SART determines necessary. Many challenges come into play when collecting interagency data, and you should address those challenges as you develop your SART’s evaluation plan.

When collecting information from multiple agencies or sources, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • Related to victim rights and safety:

    • Confidentiality of victims

      • - What information is being shared with whom?
      • - Who has access to the information, on the team, within home organizations?
      • - Did the victim consent to be included in data collection? Did victims or community members give you written permission to use memorable quotes they may share during evaluation activities? Depending on what data is being collected, this may be a necessary step.
      • - Is the information unidentified? How is personally identifying information redacted from reports or documents being reviewed?
    • Safety
      • - If someone discloses current abuse or violence during evaluation activities, does each evaluation team member know how to respond, assess for safety issues, and contact someone who can respond?
      • - Do all evaluation team members know the limits to their confidentiality when domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, or homicidal or suicidal ideation is mentioned during evaluation activities? Is everyone prepared to state these limits simply?
      • - Are people aware of your limits to confidentiality?
  • Related to accuracy of data:
    • Common definitions

      • - SARTs must agree to collect data consistently across systems and be aware of how definitions vary across programs.
      • - If one agency is collecting data on victims served within a specific age range and another agency has a different age range or crime committed, the numbers of victims reporting to either agency will never match, making that piece of information less useful than other types of data.
    • Provide training on data collection
      • - Keep a written record of the definitions, rules, and systems.
      • - Is there a way to de-duplicate data on persons receiving services while still protecting the privacy of clients? Do you have any resources for middleware — software that can assist with de-duplication? Without the ability to de-duplicate client data, it is difficult to know if many systems are serving the same group of people or if they are serving very different groups of people.
      • - Revisit this training for data collection every 6-12 months to ensure consistent collection of data.
  • Related to analyzing data and sharing reports:
    • Is your team prepared to have difficult discussions during data analysis?
    • Do you have an agreement in place that describes how evaluation team members will respond if they discover information that is alarming about the current response? If they discover something that places people in increased risk of harm or danger? This can happen during evaluation, and you want the team to have a process in place that describes how to respond. Without a plan, people may share this information with others and risk the trust within the team. These risks can be minimized by identifying instances when the evaluation team member should contact the agency immediately and instances when the team member may report back to the person selected to handle these concerns.
    • Is there buy-in from administration and decision-makers from team member organizations to share their information and be receptive to suggestions for systems change that may result as part of the analysis?
    • Does the team have a person who can facilitate discussions during data analysis and report writing so that the focus remains on making cross-systems change without blaming any one organization or person?
    • How will the data be presented?
    • Who will the data be shared with at what time? Having clear expectations around analysis will enable SARTs to prepare for these conversations.

In addition to collecting interagency information, your team may want to gather information on community members’ knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs concerning sexual assault and the services available in your area. Hosting these discussions will inform the team as they consider sexual assault services. Community members’ knowledge of services available and their confidence in and perceptions of the quality of services may be particularly relevant to your SART evaluation. [176]

For more information on collecting community-based data, go to the Community Needs Assessment section of the SART Toolkit.

Document Review

Story 1: Review of Existing Data

Story 1: Review of Existing Data by Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Retrieved from LINK.

Often, the data your SART wants to collect may already exist. Each time you think of an evaluation question you would like to answer or a piece of information you would like to know, think of all the places it might already be documented. Websites, directories of community services, previous reports, meeting minutes, newspaper articles, and written records (police reports and case files) can all be accessed publicly and searched, organized, and shared with your team (if accessible).

The following tips can help your review of documents and existing data:

  • Assess the team’s capacity to interpret the documents and data, or access to people to help do this. 

  • Identify trusted data sources. Ensure you trust the source or know enough about the source to ask the right questions of the data.

  • Work as a team to brainstorm a list of all the documents, records, and databases that are available and accessible.
  • Identify the data and documents likely to provide the most useful information to your team.
  • Build and maintain strong relationships and communication with the community sectors and people who hold, own, manage, and understand the data and documents needed. 

  • Establish a data management plan that will organize and track the documents that were or will be reviewed. Schedule a group meeting to discuss and ask questions of data and documents.
  • Identify what you have learned from documents along with any missing information. 

  • Use the review to help identify your evaluation questions and the best method to answer your questions. 


DOCUMENT REVIEW

Quantitative

Purpose

Advantages

Challenges

Resources and Capacity Required

  • When you want an impression of how a program operates or the strategy process without interrupting the strategy (review of community profiles, annual reports, applications, finances, memos, minutes, etc.)
  • Objective
  • Get comprehensive and historical information
  • Does not interrupt strategy or stakeholder’s routine in strategy (less obtrusive)
  • Information already exists
  • Little expertise needed
  • Access to data may be challenging
  • Oftentimes intensive
  • Information may be incomplete
  • Data may be difficult to interpret
  • Need to be quite clear about what you are looking for
  • Is not a flexible means to get data; data restricted to what already exists
  • Moderate
  • Document review is typically less expensive than independent research
  • May require outside consultation to fully understand the importance of information gathered.

Data Collection Resources

Data Collection Methods for Evaluation: Document Review (PDF, 2 pages)

This evaluation brief from the Department of Health and Human Services includes information about using existing documents to collect evaluation data. 


Document Review (PDF, 3 pages)

This information sheet from the WBI Evaluation Group includes examples of community-based document reviews along with general procedures for document reviews. 


Questionnaires and Surveys

Using questionnaires or surveys for collecting data has many advantages, but they also have their drawbacks. Surveys are best when you —

  • need the same information from a lot of people;
  • want to ask multiple-choice or rated questions;
  • want a general idea of attitudes, knowledge, or skills;
  • are not looking for a deeper understanding of people’s responses; and
  • want to report numbers, general themes, and relationships between items. [177]

QUESTIONNAIRES, SURVEYS, CHECKLISTS

Quantitative Data

Purpose

Advantages

Challenges

Resources and Capacity Required

Once a survey is developed, can quickly and easily get a lot of information from people in a non-threatening way

  • Can be completed anonymously
  • Easy to compare and analyze items
  • Possible to analyze responses of smaller subgroups 

  • Can generate large amounts of data
  • Adapt into many forms (online, paper, verbal)
  • Many sample questionnaires already exist (but you may still need to adapt them)
  • Might not get careful feedback
  • Wording of questions and choices can bias respondent’s answers
  • Is impersonal
  • Does not get the full story (no opportunity to delve deeper into answers)
  • Adapting existing surveys takes time
  • Can be difficult to elicit responses, depending on method
  • Survey fatigue
  • May only be used with people who read
  • Questions need to be interpreted in client languages and be culturally responsive
  • Moderate
  • Can be inexpensive to administer (even to a large group)
  • Time-consuming compared with other methods 


Victim Surveys

Using Surveys and Group Interviews to Understand how Victim/Survivors Experience the System Response

Using Surveys and Group Interviews to Understand how Victim/Survivors Experience the System Response by Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 2011. Retrieved from LINK.

SARTs often conduct victim surveys during or after service provision to identify how victims feel about the services offered, which services were offered, if victims felt supported, and possible areas for improvement. [178] SARTs should be careful to include cases that were not reported to law enforcement but where a sexual assault forensic exam was provided and cases that were not pursued.

Many SARTs attempt to distribute written surveys and often have low response rates. SARTs that make a commitment to supporting victims from reporting through prosecution, including their decision to exit the process at any point, will have the most meaningful engagement with and feedback from victims.

Even if done well, victim surveys provide limited feedback from people experiencing sexual violence, and raise issues around triggering victims and potential breaches in confidentiality. SARTs should seek meaningful feedback from all victims, including those who do not seek services, those whom service providers are unable to serve, and those whose cases —

  • are not reported to authorities,
  • are not pursued because the perpetrator is not apprehended,
  • are not filed (or are dropped) after the initial investigation,
  • are pled out before or during trial,
  • are completed through trial, but may or may not obtain a guilty verdict, or
  • result in a guilty verdict with sentences that may or may not include incarceration.
  • To hear from a wide range of survivors, some SARTs create one-time and ongoing ways to add victims’ voices to their work. Victims may become SART members who sit on committees to establish protocols and review cases, and are engaged in all aspects of SART work.

Some SARTs create advisory boards where a larger number of survivors can weigh in on ways to adapt existing policies and programs to serve diverse groups within a community and provide the SART with feedback on proposed changes. Other SARTs involve survivors in volunteer positions and community outreach and prevention activities.

Predevelopment Questions

Before designing a victim survey, consider several key questions: [179]

  • Should the survey measure victims' satisfaction with all the services they received?
  • Should the survey measure the victims' satisfaction only with services obtained from the agency that provided the survey?
  • Should the survey form capture information about the services provided to victims within a given timeframe?
  • How should the survey be disseminated to ensure maximum response?
  • How should the survey address the wide variation in victim service programs in terms of types of victims served, types of services provided, and the ways services are delivered?
  • How could the survey format and method of implementation make victims comfortable and motivated to complete the survey?
  • How will the survey be adapted to meet the language and cultural needs of survivors?

Survey Development

The victim survey needs to capture both quantitative and qualitative information about services, including the types of assistance received, whether services were easily accessible, victims' experiences with the criminal justice system, satisfaction with services received, referrals provided (to shed light on interagency coordination), and assistance that victims needed but did not receive. Keep in mind the development of surveys is an art and a science.

The survey should include a title, introduction, directions, and questions (including questions related to demographics). The survey's title should be clear and concise and reflect its content. The introductory statement should identify the survey's purpose, explain confidentiality, and state how the data will be used. When creating directions for the survey, it is important not only to describe how to complete the survey but also include where and how to return it. The actual survey questions can be a combination of types (e.g., scale, category, checklist, yes/no, open-ended) but should be limited to questions that are necessary. Putting demographic-related questions last on your form will increase the probability they will be answered.

Here are more tips for developing surveys:

  • Keep the survey short (no more than three pages).
  • Make sure every question is necessary and will be used. If you are not going to use the results, do not ask the question.
  • Use plain and simple language and avoid jargon.
  • Make sure each item asks one question. “Double-barreled” questions ask participants to answer
more than one question in the same item. For example, the question “Did the service provider respect your cultural needs and gender identity?” should be separated into two questions — one that asks about cultural needs and one that asks about gender identity.

  • Explain the purpose of the survey.
  • Ensure confidentiality.
  • Provide multilingual copies.
  • Take the time to pilot, or test, your survey questions before sending them out to your whole sample. This step will help you to find and fix problems early.

  • Include the following sections:
    • Background of assault: Year and location, whether the crime was reported, and the disposition of the case if applicable.
    • Victim experience: Victims' experiences with victim services, law enforcement, forensic examiners and health care, campus health care, Indian Health Services, criminal justice, community social service agencies, faith organizations, and any other relevant services.
    • Comments: A section for victims to explain how they were treated.
  • You can survey victims at the conclusion of services, as part of a mid-service evaluation, or at any time you think it is appropriate. To improve your response rate, consider conducting surveys before the person leaves the agency rather than asking participants to complete the survey at home.

Sample Measurement Tools and Resources


Collecting Evaluation Data: Surveys (PDF, 27 pages)

This guide by the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension focuses on survey planning, including choosing a method, implementing it, and interpreting results.

Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault- Statewide Sexual Assault Response Team Manual Version I (PDF, 57 pages)

This manual includes a number of survey tools that may be helpful for SARTs to review as they explore developing surveys and tools specific to their local needs.

Developing a Survey (PDF, 6 pages)

This tip sheet developed by the Innovation Network covers how to develop an effective survey using examples.

Developing Written Questionnaires

This module included in the Online Evaluation Resource Library includes information on determining whether to use questionnaires as well as how to write, design, and administer them.

Essentials of Survey Research and Analysis (PDF, 50 pages)

This handbook developed by Ronald Jay Polland, Ph.D. discusses developing and using surveys.

Planning a Program Evaluation (PDF, 27 pages)

This guide by the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension addresses focusing an evaluation, collecting and using information, and managing the evaluation.

Interviews

It is important that interviewers are skilled and prepared.

Interviews are best when you —

  • want a deeper understanding of people’s attitudes, knowledge, or perspectives;
  • have access to people who will give you time: victims, experts, key informants, people from diverse communities, survivors with unique cases;
  • have people on your team who are comfortable with and willing to interview; and
  • want to report text themes, quotes, and stories, rather than numbers. [180]

Group Interviews with Law Enforcement

Group Interviews with Law Enforcement by Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 2011. Retrieved from LINK.

INTERVIEWS

Qualitative

Purpose

Advantages

Challenges

Resources and Capacity Required

To explore participant perceptions, impressions or experiences, or learn more about their answers

  • Get full range and depth of information
  • Develops relationship with stakeholders
  • Can be flexible
  • Opportunity to learn what you do not know
  • Time-intensive
  • Can be lengthy to analyze, compare, and quantify
  • Can be costly
  • Interviewer can bias responses
  • Respondents who prefer anonymity may be inhibited by personal approach
  • Moderate-high
  • Requires good interview or conversation skills
  • Formal analysis methods can be difficult to learn
  • Interview Tips 173
  • Prepare a clear statement that explains the purpose of your interview and how you will use it.
  • Reserve a private space that is easy to locate and comfortable for everyone.

  • Inform interviewees of their rights: They can stop the interview at any time, they do not have to answer any question they do not want to answer, and their responses will be confidential (if appropriate). 

  • Explain any limits to confidentiality before the interview begins.
  • Describe how you will take notes or record the interview and what will happen to the information gathered.
  • Make sure every question you ask is necessary and will be used. If you are not going to use the
results, do not ask the question. 

  • Take the time to practice your interview with a trusted colleague or friend who will give you honest feedback. This step will help you find and fix problems with your questions and delivery before the real interview(s). 

  • Do not be afraid of silence during an interview. Stop and wait. Give interviewees time and space to respond.
  • Ask for clarification of any words or phrases that the interviewee uses and you do not understand.
  • Be prepared for a disclosure of abuse or violence. Be prepared to respond compassionately and to take the time to provide or connect the person with safety planning and assistance as needed.

Resources for Conducting Interviews

Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change (PDF, 134 pages)

This guide is by the Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI) at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Evaluation stories three and four discuss using the methods of group interview to learn about barriers and victim experiences with system responses to sexual assault.

Developing Interviews [181]

These two modules by the Online Evaluation Resource Library (OERL) address preparing a protocol and administering interviews.

Interviews [182]

This website by Better Evaluation provides a guide to qualitative interviewing.

Qualitative Research Guideline Project [183]

This page by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation defines five different types of interviews.

Sample Measurement Tools for Group Interviews

Community Service Provider — Sample Group Interview

For community service providers, use this sample interview adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership by the SVJI at MNCASA. 


Designing and Conducting Group Interviews (PDF, 27 pages)

This guide, adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership, by the SVJI at MNCASA, provides tips and considerations for group interviews.

Documenting Group Interviews (PDF, 2 pages)

Use this grid adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership, by SVJI at MNCASA, to document questions, evidence, key themes, supportive quotes, and additional comments.

Sample group interview - Community member (PDF, 2 pages) 

For a group of community members, use this sample interview adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership by the SVJI at MNCASA.

Sample group interview - General responder (PDF, 2 pages)

This sample interview adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership, by the SVJI at MNCASA, can be used for a general audience.

Sample group interview 
- Law enforcement leadership/investigators interview (PDF, 2 pages)

Use this sample interview adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership, by the SVJI at MNCASA, when interviewing law enforcement.

Sample group interview - Multi-disciplinary team member (PDF, 2 pages)

This sample interview adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership, by the SVJI at MNCASA, can be used for multidisciplinary team members, such as SART members.

Sample group interview - Victim/survivor (PDF, 2 pages)

Use the following sample interview adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership, by the SVJI at MNCASA, as a guide for interviewing victims.


Focus Groups

Focus groups are in-depth interviews with groups of people designed to identify specific issues. Whereas needs assessments and surveys help communities determine a course of action once a problem or issue has been identified, focus groups help uncover problems or issues that may not be recognized. Listening as people share different points of view provides a wealth of information, not just about what they think, but why they think the way they do. Focus groups use the power of group conversation to gain a deeper understanding of people’s opinions and perspectives. [184]

Focus groups are beneficial when you —

  • want a deeper understanding of the attitudes, knowledge, or perspectives in a particular group,
  • have the ability and opportunity to bring several (at least three) groups of 6 to 12 people together,
  • believe findings will be richer if participants can hear, respond to, and interact with each other,
  • have the time and funding resources (e.g., for audio transcriber services or participant incentives) needed to recruit participants, facilitate several groups, and transcribe and analyze a large quantity of qualitative data, or
  • have a team member with the comfort and skill to facilitate a focus group, or the resources to hire or recruit help (e.g., from a college or university). [185]

Focus Group Tips

  • Begin planning the focus group meeting at least two to three months in advance (gathering people, deciding on which questions to ask, and selecting facilitators and orienting them takes a bit of time).
  • Start with clear and measurable goals when developing the meeting agenda.
  • Limit participation to 6 to 12 individuals and the timeframe from 90 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Make the focus group time, location, and logistics as easy and convenient as possible for participants. If you can, take advantage of events and places where people already gather.
  • Providing food, transportation, childcare, or incentives can help make it worthwhile for people to participate, and it shows you value their time and input. 

  • Prepare an introduction to the focus group that clearly explains its purpose and schedule, what is expected of attendees, and how the information collected will be used. 

  • Take the time to practice your focus group questions with a trusted colleague or friend who will give you honest feedback. This step will help you find and fix problems with your questions and delivery before you hold the focus groups. 

  • If possible, have at least two people run a focus group: one person to concentrate on facilitating and the other to assist and take notes. Having two people who can facilitate can be helpful when dealing with disclosures or participants exhibiting distress.
  • Having two individuals assigned to notetaking can be helpful if you have the capacity. This can provide a richer picture when compiling the text from the focus group. Using numbered place cards for each participant with their de-identified number assignment can also help connect notes to the transcribed text.

To generate meaningful group discussions, focus group facilitators must be able to separate themselves from the topics at hand, maintain objectivity, and have no hidden agendas that will affect the outcomes.

FOCUS GROUPS

Qualitative

Purpose

Advantages

Challenges

Resources and Capacity Required

Explore a topic in depth through group discussion (e.g., reactions to an experience or suggestion; understanding program issues, challenges or complaints)

  • Get full range and depth of information
  • Develop relationship with stakeholders and build ownership
  • Quickly and reliably get common impressions
  • Can be efficient way to get much range and depth of information in a short time
  • Provides insights about difficult issues
  • Can convey key information about strategies
  • Helps you know what you don’t know about sexual assault in diverse communities
  • Time-intensive
  • Can be hard to analyze and compare
  • Can be costly
  • Can be hard to analyze responses (qualitative analysis)
  • Difficult to schedule 6 to 12 people together
  • Lack of confidentiality between participants
  • May hear about many forms of violence and abuse
  • Moderate-high

  • Need good facilitator for safety and closure
  • Data can be difficult to analyze

Focus Group Resources [186]

Conducting Focus Groups

Section 6 of the Community Tool Box explains how to conduct focus groups.

Focus Group Interviewing

This online guide by Drs. Richard Krueger and Mary Anne Casey provides resources and a video about conducting focus groups.

Observation

Story 2: Observation and Document Review

Story 2: Observation and Document Review by Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 2011. Retrieved from LINK.

Observation is another data collection method that can help you better understand an issue. Observation includes not just watching a person, group, process, etc., but recording and analyzing what you see in a systematic way.

Observation is a beneficial data collection method when you —

  • have a “how” or “what” type of question;
  • wish to check on implementation of policies or practices at different times of the day or with different groups of people;
  • do not feel that you know a lot about the behavior of people in a particular setting;

  • feel it is important to study a person, process, or activity in its natural setting; or 

  • believe self-reported data (asking people what they do) is likely to be different from their actual behavior. [187]

Observation Tips

  • Have a clear focus. What questions do you hope to answer with your observations, and what must you observe to get this information? 

  • Think through the people who may need to give permission or support for your observation to take place. Contact them early, and get them on board with your study before you proceed. 

  • Use clear, easy-to-use checklists and observation forms to help you record data efficiently and remind you of what you are looking for in the field. 

  • Review field notes, debrief, and reflect on observations as soon as possible, while your mind is fresh. 

  • Be as unobtrusive as possible when you are observing to increase the likelihood you are seeing what naturally happens in the setting.187 


OBSERVATION

Purpose

Advantages

Challenges

Resources and Capacity Required

Gather first-hand information about how a program or strategy actually works and particulars about processes

  • View the way a program is being implemented as it is occurring
  • Can build cross-system collaboration as observers learn about the day-to-day operations of other service providers
  • Can be difficult to interpret seen behaviors
  • Can be complex to categorize observations
  • Can influence behaviors of strategy participants
  • Can be expensive
  • Demanding
  • Requires training and expertise to devise coding scheme
  • Requires a small amount of time to complete

Observation Resources 


Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change (PDF, 134 pages)

Evaluation story 2 focuses on improving sexual assault investigation process and documentation by observing and shadowing. This guide was developed by the SVJI at the MNCASA.

Collecting Evaluation Data: Direct Observation (PDF, 8 pages)

This guide by the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension explains when to use direct observation.

Selecting an Observation Approach

This module by the Online Evaluation Resource Library (OERL) discusses determining the features to use, the different observation techniques, and the advantages and disadvantages of different techniques.

Sample Measurement Tools

Orientation to a Think Aloud Observation Session (PDF, 2 pages)

The process described in this document, adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership by the SVJI at the MNCASA helps gather information about the protocol, process, and set of procedures used during a sexual assault case by various responders.

Questions for Debriefing a Ride Along or Think Aloud Session (PDF, 1 page)

This document adapted from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership by the SVJI at the MNCASA provides SARTs with example debriefing questions from a ride-along.

Tips for a Police Ride Along (PDF, 2 pages)

This resource from Are We Making a Difference? Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change: A Resource for Multidisciplinary Team Leadership by the SVJI at the MNCASA provides information on going on a ride-along.

Ethical Considerations

Before beginning any evaluation efforts, your SART should consider three important issues:

  • How will you protect the confidentiality and safety of the victims providing you information?
  • How can you be respectful to victims when gathering and using information?
  • How you will address issues of diversity in your evaluation plan? [188]

Victims’ Voices

Evaluation of the efficacy of a program designed to serve victims, such as a SART, would not be complete without the victims’ voices. [189] Ensuring that the work SARTs do is guided by the voices of survivors helps hold SARTs accountable to victims’ outcomes.

Evaluation done well can be therapeutic and an opportunity to empower survivors. Done poorly, evaluation has the potential to cause direct harm to victims as it may require that traumatic experiences be recalled. Thus, it can be a balancing act to efficiently collect information and employ a person-centered, trauma-informed perspective.

Sexual assault involves a loss of control. Because of this, it is vital that any evaluation process provide victims and survivors with control and choice over how they participate and what information they share. Here are some considerations for engaging in the collection of information from people who have experienced sexual-based trauma. [190]

For victims and survivors, respectful evaluation engagement should —

  • prioritize their safety and wellbeing,
  • convey support and respect,
  • reinforce messages of empowerment,
  • reinforce the importance and validity of their experiences, and
  • provide an opportunity to take some type of action that can make a difference in their community and contribute to the movement to end sexual violence.

The desire to collect data for a SART evaluation must always be considered in conjunction with the confidentiality and safety of victims engaged in the evaluation activities. It is not ethical to collect data solely for the sake of collecting data, and it is extremely important that you have a system in place to protect victims’ privacy before you begin collecting any data from them.

The safety and confidentiality of victims should be kept in mind when —

  • deciding what questions to ask,
  • collecting the data,
  • storing the data, and
  • presenting the findings to others.

Ask yourself if you really need the information, how you will use it, whether it is respectful or disrespectful to ask, and who else might be interested in accessing the answers (e.g., defense attorneys representing a perpetrator). Victims should always be told why they are being asked the questions and should always know what might happen to the information they provide. If there are procedures to protect this information from others, they should know that. If their information might be shared with others, victims need to know that as well. [191]

Victims and survivors may not be able or willing to share their thoughts while they are still involved in the criminal justice system or receiving services from some member of the SART. This could be due to ongoing trauma or fears that their feedback will affect services and the criminal justice process.

SARTs that develop consistent follow-up mechanisms with victims as part of their protocol may be more likely to receive meaningful feedback on the services offered. SARTs should consider and make available all possible options for surveying victims within the victims’ level of comfort. A victim who is not emotionally ready to participate in a victim discussion panel or in-person interview may agree to an anonymous one-on-one phone call or a written survey.

Some tips and strategies for including victims include —

  • genuinely letting victims know you want to hear from them about their experiences;
  • explaining —
    • the purpose of the survey, interview or focus group,
    • who has access to the results and to what degree those results are confidential,
    • how the information may help other victims,
    • limits to your confidentiality and what you must report to authorities,
    • the victim’s right to not respond to any question and to end the survey, interview, or focus group at any time, and
    • resources, such as counseling or group therapy, available following the evaluation should the victim want or need additional help.
  • making the evaluation activity accessible or having a plan in place to enable all victims to participate, regardless of reading or writing level in English, and available to Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals and individuals for whom English is not their first language;
  • providing a stipend or incentive for participation; and
  • considering who is giving the survey or facilitating the activity and when it will occur.
    • For example, will there be an independent research assistant facilitating the survey or interview following the medical forensic exam?

The following tips for interviewing victims during the evaluation process come from research on feminist evaluation approaches:

  • Learn about violence against women in order to have the knowledge to deal with unexpected situations. [192]
  • Allow participants the choice of whether to participate. [193]
  • Conduct additional quantitative coding to contextualize the data. [194]
  • Reduce the interview hierarchy by answering questions and sharing information with the participant. [195]
  • Respond warmly, compassionately, and with respect. [196]
  • Understand that victims may not participate because withdrawing from reminders of their assault is part of their healing process. [197]

Keep in mind that the victims your SART can interview are a limited group. Given that so few victims seek services and that only some of these will participate in evaluation activities, SARTs benefit from talking with community members — especially diverse groups that may include teens, older people, racially and culturally diverse folks, members of the LGBTQ community, students, etc.

It is important to recognize that talking only to victims is a strategy that will produce valuable but limited information.

Confidentiality and Informed Consent

Most evaluation data are confidential, not anonymous, although the two terms are often (incorrectly) used interchangeably. When data collection is anonymous, the identity of the respondent/participant is unknown to anyone. When data is confidential, the identity and data of a respondent/participant is known to those who interact with the data, but is not disclosed in any identifiable way.

Any publication of evaluation findings should be stripped of identifying characteristics, including factors that could identify a person, organization, group or (sometimes) community. Care should be taken to ensure that people or organizations in smaller numbers
are grouped with others to ensure that their identity is kept confidential. Gauging how small is too small will depend on a variety of factors. The important thing to remember is that participant confidentiality is protected.

If you will be identifying communities, people, populations or organizations in any report of evaluation findings, it is good practice to inform those entities that they will be identified so they can choose to either not participate or opt out of the findings.

Not All Situations Require Consent Forms

In some situations, it may not be necessary to distribute consent forms. Evaluation in public settings such as community gatherings and other informal settings often use observation or visitor tracking methods. In these cases, posting a sign alerting visitors that an evaluation is being conducted may be sufficient for informed consent (this is an example of “passive consent”).

Even in these situations, you must provide visitors with information about how to opt out of the evaluation and who to contact should they have questions. You also should have copies of the evaluation’s purpose and methods available in case visitors would like more information. Likewise, if you are distributing a survey where no identifying information is collected, informed consent is usually unnecessary if you are surveying adults. In this case, the participant’s decision to fill out and return the survey usually counts as his or her consent.

Before deciding to use this approach, be sure to check with your organization about its policies regarding evaluation and obtaining informed consent for evaluation purposes. Informed consent for evaluation is different than informed consent for receiving services, and a person who has consented to receiving services may not be willing or able to participate in an evaluation. [198]

Children as Participants (Under 18 Years Old)

When minors are participating in an evaluation, a notice of active or passive consent must be sent to their parents or guardians. In addition, if the children are age 7 or older, you may be required to use an assent form.61 Example consent and assent forms can be found at Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Ethical Evaluation Resources

How Do We Attend to Safety, Confidentiality and Diversity? (PDF, 3 pages)

This evaluation issue brief from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence provides recommendations on confidentiality, respect of survivors, and issues of diversity.

Recommended Guidelines for Sharing Details of Survivors’ Experiences in Training or Educational Presentations (PDF, 4 pages)

The Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force developed this position paper and includes reasons not to share details of victims’ experiences in presentations as well as reasons to share them and considerations to keep in mind.

Data Analysis and Management

To improve your SART, you need to understand and correctly report data collected for evaluation. It is important to accurately portray survivors’ experiences and not underestimate or overestimate SART successes.

Once your SART has gathered and analyzed the results of your interagency data sharing, document reviews, surveys, interviews, and focus groups, your SART can use these data to educate all members of participating agencies and their employees that do not attend SART meetings, as well as potential grant funders and the community. But most importantly, it shows the members of your SART clear evidence of their progress and impact. [199]

For quantitative data, such as closed-ended survey questions, analysis can be a matter of simple addition or the mean, median, and mode of the answers. Quantitative analysis can also look at frequencies and crosstabs. Frequencies (e.g., how frequently a response was chosen) are sometimes called “counts,” and are often shown as percentages. Crosstabs allow you to find out the relationship between two items that have frequencies in groups or categories (such as gender or age groups). Crosstabs allow you to find out the relationship between two items that have frequencies in groups or categories (such as gender or age groups). [200]

For qualitative data, such as open-ended questions, interviews, or focus group transcripts, information collected can be grouped into meaningful categories to help your SART understand something new. Analysis will include thematic coding of the narrative data results into categories, which will shape the data interpretation . Thematic coding looks for themes, similarities, and discrepancies across verbatim responses.

Most program evaluations do not require elaborate analytic techniques. Instead, the practical approach focuses on collecting information that will improve your SART’s strategies. The purpose of analyzing the interviews and focus group notes is to systematically identify common themes. Program evaluation focuses on assessing whether the strategy met its outcomes and was implemented as intended. More advanced analysis is possible, but may not be necessary or feasible, depending on SART evaluation needs and resources.

If you expect a large number of respondents, consider an online survey that can provide statistical analyses. Two options are Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo.

Whether you will be entering the data into a computerized database, calculating your findings by hand, or using an online service, determine how and where you will store your data to maximize confidentiality of participants and to minimize the opportunity for someone to mistakenly delete or misplace your files.

Below are some data management tips: [201]

  • Secure confidential data entry.
  • Password-protect all files and lock cabinets.
  • Know who has access, and limit the number of people who do.

  • Back up and label your data.
  • Decide how long you need to keep data collected (e.g., up to five years).

Data Analysis Resources

Collecting and Analyzing Data

Section 5 of the Community Tool Box covers how to collect data and analyze it, using it to draw conclusions about your work.

How Do We Approach Gathering, Maintaining, and Analyzing Data? (PDF, 9 pages)

This document from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence includes examples and methods for collecting and disseminating information (by sampling, surveys, etc.) that can provide program results for the organization and funders.

Listening to Our Communities: Guide on Data Analysis (PDF, 11 pages)

This guide is part of the National Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative Toolkit on community assessment approaches to support the growth of sexual assault services within multi-service programs. It includes tips for analyzing interviews and groups to make sure that community stories are captured effectively.

Organizing and Analyzing Your Data [202] (PDF, 4 pages)

This Wilder Research Tip Sheet provides strategies for organizing and analyzing collected evaluation information. The right analysis approach will increase understanding and interpretation of findings, and ultimately guide program and policy improvement.

Program Evaluation

The Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center offers this training on program evaluation that covers how to prepare for evaluation, develop an evaluation plan, conduct an evaluation, and use evaluation results.

Safety Net: The National Safe and Strategic Technology Project

The National Network to End Domestic Violence's Safety Net Project focuses on the intersection of technology and intimate partner abuse and works to address how it impacts the safety, privacy, accessibility, and civil rights of victims.

Discussing Findings with Your Team

There are many opportunities for a multidisciplinary team to reflect on, analyze, and use the information they have collected to deepen team understanding about the response process, and to help a team decide how and when to integrate a new approach to their system response.

In looking at the information shared by victims, responders, community members, or other stakeholders, where can the team identify opportunities for improvement in the system response? This process is key because it not only ensures higher-quality data, but it also establishes credibility for your recommendations. Informed by a systematic data collection and analysis process guided by specific questions, your team’s decisions are more likely to be trusted. [203]

Organize information collected with the following considerations in mind:

  • Whether you modify a tool included in the SART Toolkit resources or develop your own, be sure to delegate data collection and analysis to individuals who feel comfortable with these tasks and have access to the people or resources needed to complete the task. 

  • It is the role of team leadership to pull together information gathered, and to organize it in such a way that it is feasible for team members to review it and consider themes and patterns. (Interview information can be color-coded to draw out certain themes across interviews.) Organize data collected under the evaluation questions to which they relate.
  • If team members are involved in the initial steps of this process (above), there’s a greater likelihood for engagement and some understanding about these next steps. 

  • Give team members a few weeks to sit with and review the data collected. Let them know that a conversation about the data will be the focus of the team meeting in a few weeks. 

  • Prepare a discussion outline ahead of the meeting and prepare to engage all team members in the conversation. 


Conduct a team conversation regarding the data collected:66

  • Introduce the data, where it came from, any unique aspects about it, how it was gathered, what’s in place to continue its collection, etc.

  • As you looked through the information you gathered through interviews, data reports, and surveys, what especially caught your attention about what you read?
  • What, if anything, in the information surprised you?
  • How would you interpret the data? What does it mean to you? 

  • Where do you see information that indicates progress on our part?
  • Where do you see that we are falling short?
  • What appear to be some of our problem areas that need attending?
  • What questions do you have from reviewing this data?
  • Are we missing any data or information?
  • What changes do our findings suggest?
  • What changes can be made based on what you learned?

Establish a plan that includes roles and timing for developing a written report with information on evaluation findings and changes you will make in light of what your team has learned. This information can be used to create a more detailed strategic plan that specifies what actions will be taken, when, and by whom, and how outcomes will be measured.

Sharing Evaluation Findings

Drafting Reports

The interpretation of interagency statistical data, community needs assessment surveys, victim surveys, and interview or focus group findings goes beyond simply tabulating the results. The data need to be evaluated to determine what the results mean, patterns that occur, and your SART's proposed next steps. Summarizing the data by writing an executive summary and comprehensive report will help you talk with the key stakeholders and the community about changes that need to occur and why these changes are needed.

Sharing Results

Data reports should be written in a format that is easily understood by broad and diverse stakeholder audiences. It is also helpful to define key terms and acronyms. Reports are rarely read cover to cover, so it is important to start with the most important information. You also need to explain what is known that was not known from the information gathered and how the new information will help improve your multidisciplinary response. To enhance your report's credibility, list any limitations of the findings or alternative explanations for them.

Public Reporting Process Resources

Creating Formal Public Reporting Processes [204]

Learn how to develop communication and reporting processes that keep the community informed and involved, and provide accountability for the effort.

Sustainable Evaluation Efforts

Continuous Quality Improvement

A major purpose of evaluation is to help make improvements to your SART implementation so that it can achieve its outcomes over time. Your evaluation findings are key to helping you decide what improvements to make. Unfortunately, many SARTs are so busy there is rarely time set aside to debrief implementation of policies, protocols, and decisions. Teams risk continuing to implement SART activities that may be inefficient, ineffective, and at worst, harmful.

If you never use your evaluation findings to improve your SART, why are you collecting evaluation information? Remember that evaluation data should be working for you, and setting aside the time to improve your SART will save you time in the long term by making your work more efficient and effective.

The process of reviewing evaluation findings and making changes to improve your activities based on those findings is called continuous quality improvement (CQI). CQI is the systematic use of process and outcome evaluation findings to monitor and improve the implementation and outcome of your SART. Think of a CQI as a periodic progress report used for accountability, to meet funding requirements, or to generate yearly reports on sexual assault and response efforts.

Who Does CQI?

Everyone involved with the SART implementation can and should be involved in some part of the improvement process. This includes all SART members, community partners, victims, evaluator(s), and anyone else who has a vested interest in a successful sexual assault response.

The SART leader or coordinator is a natural person to oversee the process of establishing improvement practices. Ultimately, the decision about who to engage in the process will mainly depend on stakeholders’ time and the resources for bringing them together to review evaluation findings and suggest changes to your implementation. The most important part of the improvement process is making the time to do it.

When to Do CQI

The key to using evaluation findings for improvement is to make it routine and expected. Most SARTs will want to use a combination of rapid and periodic improvement processes.

Rapid improvement processes involve the quick collection of simple feedback or information about SART implementation and the immediate use of that information to make improvements. Your regular SART meetings are a great place to make it routine to ask partners, “What is going well and what is not going well?” so the group can make instant decisions about simple course corrections to SART implementation.

Periodic improvement processes should be scheduled at regular intervals (e.g., once a year, one every six months) and with a clear purpose in mind: reviewing evaluation information to make decisions about major improvements to the SART. You will need to prepare evaluation findings into a simple summary so that a small group of your SART can review the findings and make suggestions for improvement.

There are no hard and fast rules about when to collect data, but timing can be very important. If you want to examine change over time, ideally you would collect initial (baseline) data during the planning stages and then again at various points once the SART is established. Always leave enough time between the first time you collect data and those that follow so that desired changes have a chance to occur. Not doing so could lead you to erroneously conclude that an activity or response is ineffective.

Maintaining Anonymous Evaluation Resources

Anonymous SART Feedback Survey (Microsoft Word, 3 pages)
This questionnaire by the Story County (Iowa) Sexual Assault Response Team is for individuals who have received SART services. The questionnaire asks about interactions with the health care provider, forensic nurse, victim advocate, and law enforcement representative.

Confidential Client Evaluation (Microsoft Word, 2 pages)
This questionnaire developed by The Sensory-motor Auditory Visual Education (SAVE) Program, a part of Help a Child Inc., is intended for individuals who have received SART services. It asks for the names of the forensic examiner, nurse assistant, victim advocate, and law enforcement representative, and assesses their actions toward the victim.

Tools for Evaluation & Assessing Your SART/SANE Program (PDF, 25 pages)

This guide from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) includes an initial victim survey of victim experience with a SART and satisfaction with care received, a SANE survey, an advocate survey, and a follow-up protocol and process.

Overcoming the Costs of Evaluation

The expense of an evaluation will vary depending on questions being asked, the types of evaluation activities used, the amount of SART and staff time needed, and the role of an outside evaluation consultant. A simple, low-cost evaluation is feasible and can deliver useful results.

Here are steps you can take to keep costs down: [205]

  • Partner with local university research departments (schools of social work and public health, and psychology departments).
  • Establish an agreement with a graduate student to conduct his or her thesis or dissertation about the impact of interagency collaboration on victims and criminal justice outcomes.
  • Tap team members with evaluation expertise.
  • Include an evaluation subcommittee on your SART and ask that committee members commit to professional development in the areas of research and evaluation.
  • Integrate evaluation costs as a line-item budget cost.
  • Seek Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding or Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) or Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) grant support.

As your resources and capacity for implementing SART activities increase, so will your resources and capacity to evaluate that programming.

Organizations to Assist with Evaluation

CDC Evaluation Working Group

This working group promotes evaluation practices at the CDC and throughout the health care system. The website links to online publications, evaluation manuals, logic model resources, and planning and performance improvement tools.

Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA)

MNCASA offers assistance in SART technical assistance related to evaluation readiness, determining your goals, implementing evaluation, and deciphering results.

National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education

This site includes an assessment and evaluation gateway to finding measurement tools that can be used to assess individual learners, groups, teams, practice environments, and organizations; and to evaluate the impact of interprofessional education programs and collaborative practice.

OVC: AI/AN SANE-SART Initiative

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) established the American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) SANE-SART Initiative in 2010 to address the comprehensive needs of tribal victims of sexual violence, with the ultimate goal of institutionalizing sustainable and evidence-based practices that meet the needs of tribal communities.

OVC TTAC Program Evaluation Training

OVC Training and Technical Assistance Center (TTAC) offers a two-day training on program evaluation. More information can be found at their website or in the Program Evaluation Flyer.

PCAR: Primary Prevention and Evaluation Resource Kit (PDF, 112 pages)

This resource includes surveys to collect feedback from victims, advocates, police officers, and nurses, as well as data collection templates and tips.

Performance Vistas

This organization helps agencies improve their service provision and management systems and promote organizational learning. The website includes planning tools, a bibliography, online consulting services, and other resources.

Praxis International

Since 1998, Praxis has been providing training, technical assistance, and networking opportunities to rural communities working to end violence against women.

RAINN

RAINN conducts sexual violence prevention and response program assessments based on leading research, regulatory guidance, and state and federal laws to evaluate program strengths and weaknesses. The result is a set of concrete recommendations that assist organizations in providing best-in-class education and response programs.

Strategic Prevention Solutions

Strategic Prevention Solutions (SPS) specializes in intimate partner violence and sexual violence prevention and services evaluation, research, and training. SPS can help you improve your skills to make a difference. Go to their website to learn more about what SPS offers, download free planning tools and worksheets, and obtain a copy of their user-friendly “Planning and Evaluation Workbook.”

VAWA Measuring Effectiveness Initiative

This organization measures the effectiveness of VAWA Act grants administered by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

Data Collection and Evaluation Resources

Agency's Use of Technology Best Practices and Policies Toolkit

This resource explores technology in the context of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and violence against women.

The Community Tool Box

This online toolkit by the Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas provides resources for identifying local needs and resources, conducting public forums and listening sessions, collecting information, conducting focus groups, conducting needs assessment surveys, identifying community assets and resources, developing baseline measures, determining service utilization, and conducting interviews and surveys.

Dawn Ontario DisAbled Women's Network

This website includes a comprehensive table of contents for accessing information about various technologies, such as computers and assistive and adaptive technologies, and FAQs.

Evaluation Toolkit

This online toolkit created by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center offers guidance on evaluation within the context of primary prevention.

Evaluation Toolkit

This three-part online toolkit created by the Resource Sharing Project contains tips and resources on building a foundation for prevention, working with individuals outside the organization, and handling unexpected outcomes of evaluation.

INFONET: The development, implementation, and operation of a web-based information system for victim service providers in Illinois (PDF, 38 pages)

This resource by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority describes how agencies use data, the way the INFONET system is structured, and critical issues.

Law Enforcement Tech Guide for Communications Interoperability: A Guide for Interagency Communications Projects (PDF, 504 pages)

This guide by the Community Oriented Policing Services of the U.S. Department of Justice provides background on communication interoperability and tools for carrying out technology initiatives.

National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

This archive includes online guides that provide detailed information about complex or frequently accessed data collections.

National Association for Justice Information Systems

The National Association for Justice Information Systems is an organization of individuals responsible for acquiring, operating, and managing local, state, and federal criminal justice information systems.

Office of Research and Evaluation’s Crime, Violence and Victimization Research Division’s Compendium of Research on Violence Against Women (PDF, 237 pages)

This 2014 document from the National Institute of Justice Office of Research and Evaluation is a compendium of reports on advocacy, arrest and prosecution, offender interventions, courts and the criminal justice system, forensic and investigative methods, and more.

Quick Health Data Online

This website provides state- and county-level data for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Data reports are available by gender, race, and ethnicity and come from various sources. Categories include demographics, reproductive health, violence, prevention, disease, and mental health.

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Data Collection System

This system enhances and improves the collection of statewide data from all victims who use the services of local domestic violence programs and sexual assault centers.

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Topic Sexual Assault Response Teams