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Learn About SARTs: Section 2

What SARTs should know about sexual violence What is a sexual assault response team? History of SARTs

What is a Sexual Assault Response Team?

Collaboration strengthens the response of individual agencies and unites them into a coordinated team approach. No one agency can successfully handle all aspects of a sexual assault. Each agency is important and has its strengths and limitations. Effective multidisciplinary teams generate a stronger response and produce more effective outcomes for the victim and the criminal justice system.[91]

A SART is a group of specially trained members of health care, law enforcement, prosecution, and advocacy that work together to provide services to victims of sexual assault, while investigating sexual assault cases for criminal prosecution. [92] SART goals have expanded to achieve justice and enhance community safety including, but not limited to, criminal prosecution.

The main functions of SART are to — [93]

  • increase intra-agency and interagency collaboration and coordination when responding to sexual assault,
  • identify inadequacies and limitations in and among systems,
  • ensure appropriate, trauma-informed responses to support victims, and
  • improve offender accountability.

SARTs focus on improving the coordination of services from local agencies — law enforcement, advocacy and victim service organizations, health care providers, prosecution, and others — that respond to sexual assault, both immediately after a disclosure of sexual assault and across the lifespan of a victim. This coordination strives to better protect victim rights, increase prosecution rates, and decrease the short- and long-term costs of sexual assault on victims, systems, and communities.

In addition to coordinating responses to specific victims, many SARTs work together to identify gaps and improve responses to reports of sexual assault. Teams may take on one issue at a time, such as the use of suspect exams, the accessibility and standard use of interpreters, or embedding forensic experiential trauma interviewing, [94] or they may address multiple issues as they do their collaborative work. In this system changework, they go beyond coordinating the response on individual cases to assessing and addressing gaps that may occur for any victim.

SARTs ensure appropriate responses through the ongoing application of trauma-informed training to victim services, response, policy, and practice. As they increase their awareness of the effects trauma has on a victim, SARTs will be able to tailor each piece of the response — including advocacy and medical services, investigation, and prosecution — to the reality of each victim when they interact with each professional.

SARTs were originally formed to increase prosecution and work together to improve offender accountability. SARTs work together to enhance their understanding of incidence (frequency) and prevalence (pervasiveness) of sexual assault and the effect of recidivism — all of which directly impact and increase community safety. SARTs can identify aspects of a community that provide a safe haven for offenders, gaps in accountability, and outdated legislation that inhibits justice.

Although SARTs are frequently defined as sexual assault response teams, they may also be referred to as sexual assault resource teams or suspected abuse response teams. Other multidisciplinary response teams (MRTs) can have the same goals in addressing sexual assault, but do not call themselves SARTs.

According to the Report on the National Needs Assessment of Sexual Assault Response Teams, authored by NSVRC, other communities may call their coordinated approaches:

  • multidisciplinary teams (MDTs),
  • multidisciplinary response teams (MRTs),
  • sexual assault interagency councils (SAICs),
  • child abuse response teams (CARTs), and
  • sexual assault multidisciplinary action response teams (SMARTs).

How teams organize and structure themselves to do this work varies widely. [95] Models range from informal, cooperative partnerships to more formally coordinated and multidisciplinary responses on local, regional, state, tribal, or territory levels.

Some of the significant ways SARTs vary include —

  • membership: Who is invited to join a team and who participates on a SART can vary. In one nationwide study, teams averaged membership from 12 different organizations, with most common active members being police, rape crisis center advocates and staff, sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs), and prosecutors. [96] For more information, see the SART Membership section of the SART Toolkit.
  • primary focus: While all SARTs focus on improving the response to sexual assault in their jurisdictions, the scope and methods used to achieve that goal may vary based on the SART’s community. SARTs may focus only on coordination of the immediate response to reports of sexual assault or may also seek to enact systems change that affects responses to victims. Some communities have multiple SARTs that may focus on specific clients, such as minors, adolescents, children, or a combination of various age ranges. How the team understands its primary focus can affect their choice of team members, activities, and discussions. For more on this, see the SART Membership and Conducting Successful Team Meetings sections of the SART Toolkit.
  • degree of formalization: The use of formal mechanisms such as meeting processes (e.g., agendas, meeting minutes, sign-in sheets), bylaws or operating rules, subcommittees, and procedures for decision-making and conflict resolution varies. According to one national study, 90 percent of teams surveyed had a formal leader, and 35.1 percent had formal sources of funding. [97] Refer to the SART Meeting Logistics and Funding a SART sections of the SART Toolkit for additional information on these topics.
  • degree of collaboration: Collaboration across a SART’s agencies can take many forms. Many teams develop policies or protocols together, train responders across their member agencies, develop and adopt memoranda of understanding (MOUs), and complete some form of multidisciplinary case review.
  • degree of evaluation: Teams vary in their ability and willingness to evaluate their outcomes or impacts for many reasons. Currently a small number of teams evaluate their work, though interest is growing. See Community Needs Assessment, Conducting Case Reviews, and Evaluation sections in the SART Toolkit for additional information.
  • settings in which they operate: SART settings typically vary by geography (rural, urban, a local county, multiple counties in a region, a portion of a county, a tribal jurisdiction) or by a distinctly identified community, such as a tribe, college or university campus, a military base or unit, or a prison. [98]
  • scope relative to sexual assault and other crime areas: Teams may address other crime areas such as domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, trafficking, child sexual abuse, or adult and adolescent sexual assault. Teams that focus on multiple crime areas are more likely to use a different name for their multidisciplinary collaboration and have additional variations in membership as well as the other categories listed above.

SARTs as the Model Response

The SART model has become the standard for responding to adult and adolescent victims of sexual assault. [99] Both the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations Adult/Adolescent [100] and the National Protocol for Sexual Abuse Medical Forensic Examinations — Pediatric [101] recommend coordinated team approaches as the best practice for response to sexual assault.

The National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approachrecommends a collaborative multidisciplinary approach for sexual assault cases. Some states have mandated that local communities use SARTs, and the U.S. Department of Justice has included participation in a SART (or its local equivalent) among its required actions for police agencies investigated for poor handling of sexual assault cases. [102]

SART Resources

Sexual Assault Response Teams: Partnering for Success (multimedia, 7:33)

This video from the OVC highlights the history and accomplishments of SARTs, features interviews with survivors and SART members, describes benefits of the SART response, and highlights the progress made in serving victims and enhancing prosecution of sexual assault cases.

Break the Silence: Sexual Assault and the SART Solution (multimedia, 19:58)

This video by SANE-SART discusses the difficulties victims face in coming forward about an assault and how SARTs can help.

Challenges SARTs Experience

Every SART will face challenges — how the team responds to those challenges determines their success. The SART Toolkit serves as a guide for individual team members and the agencies they represent as they work through any tensions and difficulties that arise in order to best serve victims of sexual assault, hold offenders accountable, and keep communities safe.

SARTs should know that one major challenge is determining the metrics by which to measure your effectiveness. For instance, the impact of SARTs on prosecution rates is difficult to determine due to the low number of studies, the low number of SARTs represented in those studies, and the complex number of factors that determine whether or not a case is prosecuted.

Research into SART effectiveness shows that many SARTs believe they have improved victims’ help-seeking experiences through their efforts, and individual SARTs have reported positive results related to individual member agency outcomes, increased teamwork, increased victim-centered care, and more consistent process implementation.

Limited research shows slightly enhanced prosecution rates associated with communities that have both a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) and a SART. Due to great variability in SARTs, communities, and other factors, there is an ongoing need for multisite replication studies to understand if the positive outcomes are isolated instances or truly attributed to SANEs, SARTs, or both.

SARTs also report facing many challenges to balance the laws, mandates, power, and goals of each member organization with the mission of the team. SARTs may face difficulties in developing a consistent team due to additional responsibilities of team members, turnover, and inconsistency around orientation and training. SARTs often need to manage tensions related to leadership, personnel, authority, and consistency of responses among member agencies.

Negotiating power and authority between team members can be complicated by participating agencies’ different access to resources and perceptions of power among the disciplines represented on the team. Assumptions that team members lack expertise or credibility in their field or that the member organization lacks expertise related to sexual assault cases often leads to conflict.

Due in part to these differences, some SARTs report difficulty establishing and adhering to team goals, developing collaborative processes, and evaluating their efforts. Despite these challenges, SARTs do make a positive impact in service provision. Often the relationships that develop during meetings, the standards developed in protocols, and the practice team members acquire by resolving interagency conflict lead to better outcomes for victims.

SARTs and the Victim-Centered Approach

SARTs work to coordinate services around victims’ experiences to remove barriers and increase services and supports for victims. The Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force defines it this way: “A victim-centered response acknowledges that justice represents more than a successful prosecution … It is the role of the SART to create response protocols that mitigate the harm and trauma that victims experience and that allow individual survivors to experience justice regardless of the legal outcomes of their case.” [103]

A victim-centered response upholds both the knowledge of best practices and the skill of customizing those practices to best fit the unique needs and circumstances of a specific victim or case. A victim-centered approach prioritizes the victim’s needs, concerns, safety, rights, and well-being to ensure compassionate, non-judgmental care is provided following a traumatic experience. [104]

Ensuring a victim-centered approach is critical to accomplishing the SART mission. Even if a case never goes to trial, justice is achieved when victims feel safe, supported, and believed by systems. [105] SARTs can ensure victims are treated with humanity and respect throughout all their interactions with systems. Systems justice is always a potential outcome for victims, and these efforts are beneficial and critical to their healing.

SARTs have many resources from which to learn about victim-centered approaches. Each SART will have to chart its own path towards this goal. The resource Becoming Victim-Centered proposes a short and simple set of agreements that can guide these conversations. Teams that navigate these conversations together believe that when they improve victims’ experiences, they improve legal outcomes as well. [106]

The following steps are necessary in a victim-centered approach:

  • Promoting healing through support from the system of response, regardless of the case outcome.
  • Understanding the impact of trauma.
  • Listening to the concerns and needs of the victim.
  • Prioritizing victim safety and well-being, according to the victim’s needs.
  • Taking measures to ensure confidentiality and privacy.
  • Reducing secondary trauma.
  • Employing trauma-informed interview practices.
  • Being responsive to cultural differences and language barriers. [107]
  • Providing the necessary support for victims to communicate safely.
  • Giving information to explain the process and provide updates.
  • Providing options and flexibility whenever possible.
  • Including the voices of victims in the SART process.
  • Providing competent, professional, thorough, compassionate, and knowledgeable responders during every step of the response. This includes promoting regular training opportunities for SART members. [108]

SART members should recognize — [109]

  • the importance of supporting a victim’s access to each responder, per their wishes.
  • victims of sexual assault are never responsible, in all or part, for their victimization, regardless of the circumstances leading up to or surrounding the assault (e.g., lifestyle, choices, behavior).
  • the response of friends, family, and system responders, or the lack thereof, can either increase or mitigate the harm and trauma that victims suffer as a result of the assault.
  • offenders are always responsible for the assault.

Individuals, agencies, and SARTs are constantly evolving and becoming more victim-centered. Keeping the victim first and foremost in service delivery and protocol development is an ongoing process and there is always room for growth. SARTs can use training to increase their awareness of and ability to be victim-centered. SARTs will know when they are progressing in the ongoing process of being victim-centered by including the voices of victims in their team and collecting feedback from their community.

Victim-Centered Resources

Becoming Victim-Centered (PDF, 2 pages)

This resource from the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) provides key guidelines for providing a victim-centered response to sexual assault victims.

Best Practices Guidelines: Crime Victim Services (PDF, 29 pages)

This guide from the OVC provides an overview of victim-centered response and best practices for direct services, community partnerships, and administration.

Victim-Centered Approach (PDF, 1 page)

This factsheet from the National Center for Victims of Crime discusses how sex offense unit detectives can use a victim-centered approach in investigations of sexual assault.

A Victim-Centered Approach

These guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security provide an overview of using a victim-centered approach to human trafficking.

Victim-Centered Approach (PDF, 3 pages)

This resource from Truckers Against Trafficking provides an overview of the victim-centered framework, checklists for questioning victims and interacting with children and adolescents, and potential challenges for trafficking victims of all ages.

Offender-Focused Response

Along with a victim-centered approach, SARTs should concentrate on an offender-focused response. This response should focus on the full range of an offender’s actions, intent, and any ongoing assaultive behaviors. This approach puts the focus on the intent and actions of the offender, not the victim, during investigation and prosecution to ensure the victim’s actions and behaviors do not become a diversion from the accountability of the offender. [110]

If responders focus on the actions of the victim prior to or during the assault, it can imply that the victim was in some way responsible. Responders must avoid making statements that a victim could interpret as victim-blaming.

To ensure victims are treated with fairness, respect, and dignity, and investigations are conducted thoroughly, SARTs are encouraged to discuss the benefits of being victim-centered and offender-focused as a community and as a team. For more information on individuals who offend and how that information might inform or impact SARTs, see the SARTs and Offender Accountability section of the SART Toolkit.

Systems Change

Sexual Violence Justice Institute: Change is Possibleby Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 2018. Retrieved from LINK Provided with permission.

Systems change is “an approach to social change, and the questions systems changers should constantly be asking are: what change is needed, why is it needed, and what might be the unintended consequences? Systems change, at its core, answers the question, how change can be affected.” [111] Ultimately, systems improvement impacts the structures that make a system function the way it does, including policies, relationships, resources, and values. [112]

A system is “a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole.” [113] SARTs are teams made up of individual agencies (law enforcement, advocacy, prosecution, and medical) and systems (criminal justice, support systems, and healthcare systems). When SARTs come together they form a unique system. Understanding and embracing the team’s role as a system focused on improving the response to sexual assault is a critical part of becoming an effective SART.

SARTs form specifically to identify gaps and problems that interfere with or detract from supporting victims, holding offenders accountable, or keeping communities safe, and put in motion steps to address those gaps and problems .Because it is a SART’s goal to think about and explore areas for improvement, SARTs are catalysts for change. The SART may identify areas for change in individual agencies, existing systems, or within the SARTs response as a service delivery system. These changes may be obvious, difficult, easy, time-consuming, hidden, small, simple, ambitious, or bold.

“The Hennepin County SMARTeam is clearly stating that the status quo is no longer acceptable. [We] would like to establish a Best Practice and Change Committee that is responsible for thinking beyond the currently established practice and parameters. We will work to increase responder understanding of victim experiences and conduct trauma-informed investigations by strengthening responder preparation for providing support that is welcoming to a broad range of ages, cultures, and life experiences.” As stated in Assessing the Sexual Assault System Response in Hennepin County, A Community Needs Assessment by the Hennepin County Sexual Assault Multidisciplinary SMART Action Response Team, Executive Summary.

Why Should SARTs Do Systems Change?

Are We Making a Difference? An Overview of How Sexual Assault Response Teams Can Assess Change

Are We Making a Difference? An Overview of How Sexual Assault Response Teams Can Assess Change by Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 2011. Retrieved from LINK Provided with permission.

The first SARTs developed in the 1970s to address a lack of coordination between various parts of the systems that respond to sexual assault and sexual violence. [114] For example, many SARTs connected with sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) programs to coordinate the interaction between the medical response system and the criminal justice system. This coordination led to policy changes in these systems in areas such as collecting and storing forensic evidence, considering when and where information is shared, cross-training between SANEs, and using expert testimony by SANEs. This coordination leads to increased prosecution, in some instances. SARTs were created as a strategy for system change.

Even with ongoing systems change since the 1970s, substantive gaps in systems still exist. Developing a SART and assessing community needs is an opportunity to identify and address inadequacies in systemic responses to victims. Communities that are not proactively seeking improvements may experience harmful outcomes for victims and may experience widespread public exposure of gaps in services by victims, journalists, service providers, or independent auditors, which can create unsafe circumstances for victims and a crisis atmosphere.

Examples of exposed system gaps include high rates of victims who do not receive medical care, high rates of unfounded sexual assault cases, [115] unprocessed sexual assault evidence kits, [116] high attrition in cases moving from investigation to prosecution, and victims discouraged from pursuing prosecution. [117]

The urgent need for SARTs to adopt a systems improvement approach is reflected in data that suggests our collective outcomes for addressing sexual assault still need considerable attention. One report estimates that between 0.2 percent and 5.2 percent of forcible rapes committed in the United States will lead to a conviction for the offender, and an estimated 0.2 percent to 2.8 percent result in incarceration. [118]

Very few medical programs include training on domestic violence or sexual assault, two crimes that affect a large part of the United Sates population with short- and long-term health outcomes and financial costs [119] for individuals and communities.

The gap between what victims need and what our system offers is so significant for many victims that some victims and systems advocate creating alternative routes to justice-making, such as through restorative justice.

Since SARTs are comprised of local responders and decision-makers within SART agencies, team members are in an excellent position to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the community’s response. By working together, effective SARTs can prompt the systems change needed to improve these numbers.

Systems Change, Not Victim Change

Sexual assault victims may interact with many different systems as they seek services, safety, and justice. For example, a victim may seek a restraining order through the civil justice system, a forensic medical exam through the health care system, and short-term counseling or support provided by an agency in the mental health system or advocacy system, in addition to reporting the crime to law enforcement in the criminal justice system. Another victim may seek safety and offender accountability through their college campus systems. Yet another victim may be subject to a different system (e.g., immigration, eldercare, military, corrections) that may make disclosing victimization and accessing other systems less likely.

Since sexual assault victims often encounter multiple systems, part of a SART’s task is to consider how those systems intersect in the lives of victims and then explore changes that will improve victim experience and case outcomes. Many SARTs have broadened their focus beyond the criminal justice system, toward civil attorneys, in recognition that there are many victims’ needs that the criminal justice system is not designed or equipped to address.

A successful SART focuses on changing systems, not victims. It also expands its focus beyond serving a specific type of sexual assault victim to design practices flexible enough to meet the needs of all victims, including and especially those that require the most resources and are often most ignored, most vulnerable, and harder to prosecute. For example, many services have evolved from using a physical door as a point of entry or access to including multiple entry points (door, phone, text), multiple mechanisms of access (English, TYY, interpreters), and multiple agencies (community referrals, advocacy, law enforcement, medical).

Seeking to make entry points, mechanisms of access, and agencies ready to receive victims how and when they are able or ready to seek services are methods of making systems work for victims.

How Can SARTs Approach Systems Change?

A SART’s goals in working for systems change are to identify areas of response that are not working well and make any changes necessary so the SART is providing systems justice through culturally relevant, victim-centered, trauma-informed responses. “Change” is a value-loaded word. Some see change as an attack on tradition and stability, while others relate change to progress and improvement.

Your SART is likely to have individuals on all parts of the spectrum when it comes to discussing, evaluating, and implementing change. While these discussions will be challenging, they are necessary to do effective SART work. SARTs can find value in having conversations that touch on all topics and on making challenging decisions as they will provide opportunities for cross education. All decisions will lead to specific outcomes, and SARTs have an opportunity and responsibility to evaluate the potential outcomes while making a decision or engaging in implementation.

One place to start is with the guidance in the SART Toolkit. Reviewing sections on topics such as assessing a community’s needs, conducting case review, incorporating victims’ voices, and evaluating your SART will give you options for learning how your current response system is working.

If your team has identified challenges and has some specific changes it wants to make, looking to other sections such as protocol development, multidisciplinary training, or team meetings may provide ideas on how to introduce, agree to, implement, and understand the impact of those changes. Often a SART’s vision, mission, strategic plan, and list of goals will guide these discussions.

With these tools or through a process of your own, SART members should review their own systems’ work in light of best practices and national standards. It is important to consider which actions, processes, and policies should be standardized in protocol to improve consistency (e.g., chain of custody for sexual assault evidence kits, implementing trauma-informed interview techniques) and which should remain highly customizable to remain victim-centered (e.g., where to interview the victim, how to provide accommodations).

Each section of the SART Toolkit lists technical assistance providers who will be able to discuss best practices around a specific topic and provide SARTs with information on how to adapt best practices to their local circumstances.

SARTs may identify gaps between systems, within systems, or within individual agencies. Having the right person from an agency on the SART is important, specifically when a SART member is part of identifying an area for improvement within their own agency. It is essential that SART members understand their agency’s relevant policies and can make or influence decisions within their agencies. SARTs may ask their member agencies to dedicate resources (e.g., money, space, time) to the SART or to an agency engaged in internal systems change, and SART members may need to make, advocate for, or defend that resource allocation to their own agencies.

Since changes in one process or procedure can necessitate changes in another part of the system, it is important for SART members to communicate with one another about the changes they propose to make. SART meetings can be a place to consider the implications of a given change and review how it should be introduced, implemented, and evaluated.

SARTs aiming to fulfill their main functions recognize that systems change work is SART work. When SART members work together to identify gaps and barriers, they can create the solutions that fit for their community. For more information, see the SARTs as the Model Response section of the SART Toolkit.

Research and Evaluation Support Systems Change

Recent research in the sexual assault field has implications for SARTs engaged in systems change, particularly those seeking to increase reporting, enhance the criminal justice response, and increase prosecution. Some projects involve a large investment of resources, and project-specific technical assistance.

Themes uncovered with community needs assessments, research, or evaluation can be demonstrated with data to be reoccurring issues. Findings from research or evaluation are compelling and provide focus on a specific problem, so agencies can then discuss a specific solution. Data enable teams to discuss problems without placing blame on an individual or agency.

Often, data allow SARTs to discuss the data or the process and identify a concrete solution. Although large-scale evaluation or systems change efforts often involve a large influx of resources, in the form of a grant or specific technical assistance project, SARTs can use information from current research to inform their work in many ways.

SARTs can seek to —

  • learn from current research.
  • examine what findings might also be true in their community.
  • identify whether their team collects data that may assist other teams.
  • apply findings to their community.
  • understand what questions were asked in the research and why.
  • use findings to have discussions among team members.
  • ask if some aspects of the research and data collection can be replicated formally or informally in their community.
  • develop partnerships and apply for grants to replicate studies in their community.
  • develop a report, such as the California SART Report: Taking Sexual Assault Response Teams to the Next Level.
  • read and discuss other communities’ SART reports.
  • monitor ongoing legislative reforms.

Systems Change Examples

These are examples of changes made by SARTs or communities to improve the systems that serve victims and promote offender accountability:

  • Implementing awareness campaigns such as Start by Believing.
  • Changing to trauma-informed interviewing techniques.
  • Increasing the number of investigations that are referred to prosecution.
  • Getting feedback from prosecution on what cases are more or less likely to be charged, understanding why, and using that information to inform and improve practice.
  • Conducting case reviews to examine what does and does not work in individual cases from a systems perspective.
  • Examining physical spaces at agencies to ensure they are comfortable and appropriate for all victims, including victims of all genders, individuals with disabilities, and individuals who speak languages other than English.
  • Working with 911 dispatchers to develop a protocol for sexual assault cases.
  • Increasing training on sexual assault by assailants known to the victim.
  • Entering all DNA results into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Systems Change Resources

Are We Making a Difference? Resources for Sexual Assault Response Teams Assessing Systems Change

This website from the Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI) at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault provides online resources to help your SART make the case for evaluation and learn basic evaluation skills to assess the change your SART is making in your community.

Assessing the Sexual Assault System Response in Hennepin County: Executive Summary (PDF, 6 pages)

This assessment outlines the eight-step protocol development cycle used by the Hennepin County SMARTeam and provides recommendations.

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

This full report from the Hennepin County SMARTeam details the scope of sexual violence in the local area, the victim experience survey and group interviews used by the team, and a call to action to various disciplines written by SMARTeam members.

Fostering Systems Change

This article in Stanford Social Innovation Review includes tips for organizations working on systems change, such as paying attention to interconnectedness and building internal capacity for change.

Systems Change: A Guide to What It Is and How to Do It (PDF, 47 pages)

This guide from New Philanthropy Capital defines the concepts involved in systems change and discusses what it looks like from various perspectives, including those of practitioners, advocates, researchers, and others.

Systems Change Tracking Form (PDF, 3 pages)

This form developed by Rebecca Campbell, Ph.D., Debra Patterson, MSW, MA, and Megan Greeson, BA, can help your SART keep track of systems change.

Three Keys to Unlocking Systems-Level Change

This article in Stanford Social Innovation Review provides three important tips for doing systems change work: having a systems mindset, the right tool, and an understanding of human dynamics.

Models for Systems Change

ABLe Change Process for Systems Change (PDF, 1 page)

This graphic from Michigan State’s System Exchange provides a helpful visual depiction of the systems change process.

The Altarum Systems Change Model

This model from the Altarum Institute provides a guide for organizations to make systemic change.

Forensic Compliance in Colorado: An Examination of System Response to Sexual Assault (PDF, 66 pages)

This resource created by the Forensic Compliance Evaluation Project aimed to identify approaches and challenges in implementing forensic compliance laws.

Ramsey County Sexual Assault Systems Review (PDF, 35 pages) 

This report reflects Ramsey County, Minnesota’s two-year study of sexual assault incidents.

Systems Change Framework (PDF, 5 pages)

This resource from DesertVista Consulting provides a step-by-step framework for systems change and includes questions to consider for each part of the process.

Federal Support

Several federal agencies help support and develop SARTs including those listed here:

These agencies fund research on evidence-based practices, support the development of multidisciplinary training guidelines, fund agencies to provide customized technical assistance, and promote the distribution of materials to help inform and establish SARTs throughout the nation.

National Technical Assistance Providers


ASISTA provides national technical assistance, training, and leadership to help crime survivors who are seeking secure immigration status.

Center on Domestic Violence University of Colorado Denver

The Center on Domestic Violence offers training and support for the development, maintenance, and assessment of coordinated community response (CCR) teams and campus SARTs. The center assists in developing CCR teams that are inclusive, culturally relevant, and trauma-informed, and building capacity on campus teams to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of campus violence prevention and response programs.

Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women

The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) works to stop violence against Native women and children by serving as a resource for training, advocate support, technical assistance, and policy advocacy. CSVANW has also aided in supportive collaborations with tribal leadership to further develop and promote tribal, federal, state, and local legislation, and policies that cultivate best practices for responding to violent crimes against Native women.

Deaf Anti-violence Coalition

The Deaf Anti-violence Coalition (DAVC) is a national organization committed to ending power-based personal violence, including but not limited to: domestic violence, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, stalking, and human trafficking within Deaf communities.

End Violence Against Women International

EVAWI works with and educates people working to end gender-based violence. They provide training and technical assistance, consultation, resources, and other services.


FORGE provides a wide range of assistance to anti-violence professionals who are seeking support to provide competent and respectful care to transgender survivors and loved ones of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, stalking, and hate violence.

International Association of Forensic Nurses

This international membership organization supports professionals working in forensic nursing by promoting and sharing information.

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

NSVRC is the leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence. NSVRC translates research and trends into best practices that help individuals, communities, and service providers achieve real and lasting change.

NSVRC SART Discussion Group

This email-based discussion group promotes a conversation among professionals and organizations that respond to sexual violence.

Office for Victims of Crime: Training and Technical Assistance Center

OVC’s Training and Technical Assistance Center provides training, assistance, and tools to service providers across the country.

Praxis International

Praxis provides leadership and technical assistance to eliminate violence in the lives of women and their children with key projects including the Advocacy Learning Center, Blueprint for Safety, Institutional Analysis, and Rural Violence Against Women.


SAFEta provides technical assistance for organizations that use the National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations.

Sexual Violence Justice Institute

The Sexual Violence Justice Institute at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault promotes justice for victims of sexual violence through collaboration, leadership, training, and technical assistance. It is a national resource for expertise in the criminal justice response to sexual violence, providing SART-specific resources, training, and support.

Vera Institute of Justice

Vera Institute provides technical assistance around building and improving justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities. They study problems, pilot solutions, engage diverse communities, and harness the power of evidence. They developed Partnering with Community Sexual Assault Response Teams: A Guide for Local Community Confinement and Juvenile Detention Facilities.

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