Appendix D. Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs)

Effective SARTs have several common characteristics: formalization (written policies for working together on individual cases and larger projects in the form of a memoranda of understanding or agreement [MOU/MOA]),11 regular collaborative processes, and broad active membership from diverse stakeholder groups.12 According to the research, SART composition varies by office, with an average of 12 organizations involved in a team.13 SARTs improve experiences of victims seeking help, lead to more successful legal outcomes, and promote sexual assault prevention/education.14 Research suggests that the most successful SARTs follow these promising practices:15

  • Prosecutors fully support and regularly participate in the SART, including attendance at all SART meetings;16
  • The chief prosecutor lends political support to the SART and its efforts;
  • Review of both open and closed cases within the SART context;
  • Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) training is in place to ensure competency for expert testimony in court;
  • Prosecutorial involvement in SART is institutionalized via MOU/MOAs incorporated into the SART’s policies and procedures.

SARTs should clearly define and understand the different roles and responsibilities of each partner, as well as their respective obligations regarding confidentiality, privilege, and discovery.17 Prosecutors must determine how information will be shared and ensure personnel will not be overtasked by the responsibilities associated with participating in these groups. This is important because where resources are scarce, even in the largest offices, staff may be assigned to multiple coordinated teams addressing co-occurring crimes (e.g., child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, and gang-related crimes). There also must be a formal mechanism to ensure that information related to co-occurring crimes is shared.

The role and responsibilities of prosecutor’s office victim-witness personnel18 must be distinguished from those of community victim advocates assigned to each sexual assault case. Victim-witness professionals should work collaboratively with community-based advocates to respond to victim questions and appropriately share non-confidential information provided by victims. It is important to determine the extent to which any of this information may be discoverable.19

Law enforcement participation helps ensure cases are appropriately investigated and subject to prosecutorial review for possible charging. Create a protocol for joint review by law enforcement and prosecutors prior to any decision to “unfound” a report or decline to charge. Collaboration also enhances the ability to uncover and respond to co-occurring crimes, as successful collaborative responses include cross-training on indicators of such criminal behaviors.

In order to build a strong, evidence-based case, trainings and protocols should include the use of trauma-informed interviewing techniques and identification and preservation of evidence relating to the full scope of the offender’s criminal activity.

Other specialized units in police departments and prosecutor’s offices (e.g., domestic violence, human trafficking, gang, cybercrimes, or juvenile units) should coordinate resources and share intelligence, expertise, and strategy to improve their response to co-occurring crimes.

Collaboration with civil attorneys enables prosecutors to understand important aspects of civil practice, and the remedies available to victims of sexual violence (e.g., divorce/child custody, protection orders, tort claims, restitution, and representation of victim’s interests in criminal proceedings). If a victim seeks counsel, prosecutors should be open to coordination and communication with the victim’s attorney where appropriate and when such contact does not violate ethical considerations or advocate confidentiality or privilege.20


11 For tools and tips on drafting memorandum of understanding for partners in a SART, see Protocols and Guidelines for Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART), National Sexual Violence Resource Center, (last visited Mar. 12, 2017).

12 Rebecca Campbell et al., Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Implementation and Collaborative Process: What Works Best for the Criminal Justice System?, U.S. Dep’t of Just. (Aug. 2013).

13 See Megan R. Greeson & Rebecca Campbell, Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs): An Empirical Review of Their Effectiveness and Challenges to Successful Implementation, 14(2) Trauma Violence Abuse 83-95, 84 (Dec. 2012).

14 Elaine Nugent-Borakove, Testing the Efficacy of SANE/SART Programs: Do They Make a Difference in Sexual Assault Arrest & Prosecution Outcomes? (2006); see also Anne Wolbert Burgess et al., SANE/SART Services for Sexual Assault Victims: Policy Implications, 1 Victims & Offenders 205-12 (2006).

15 See Marilyn Strachan Peterson, et al., California SART Report: Taking Sexual Assault Response to The Next Level – Research Findings, Promising Practices & Recommendations, California Clinical Forensic Med. Training Ctr. 101 (Jan. 2009), (highlighting the importance of the participation of SART members, particularly law enforcement and prosecutors, in community education and outreach efforts to encourage victim reporting and inspire trust in the criminal justice system).

16 See Viktoria Kristiansson, Walking A Tightrope: Balancing Victim Privacy and Offender Accountability in Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prosecutions, Parts I and II, 9/10 Strategies (May 2013), available at and

17 See AEquitas, Literature Review: Sexual Assault Justice Initiative (2017) (sections on Promising Practices, Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs), Implementing SARTs). See also, Christopher Mallios & Jenifer Markowitz, Benefits of Coordinated Community Responses in Sexual Assault Cases, AEquitas, 7 Strategies in Brief (Dec. 2011).

18 For discussion on victim’s rights attorney roles, see M. Garvin & D.E. Beloof, Crime Victim Agency: Independent Lawyers for Sexual Assault Victims. Ohio St. J. of Crim. Law, 67-88. 21 (2015).