Early on, Family Services began an informal advisory group that included local law enforcement agencies to address sexual assault cases. This initiative created a foundation for what is The Tulare County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) today. SART is a countywide victim-sensitive program designed to provide a team approach to sexual assaults. The mission of SART is to counter the experience of sexual assault with a sensitive and competent multi-disciplinary response, to support efforts to restore well-being to the victim, and to bring responsible person(s) to justice.
The team consists of a nurse examiner who provides a forensic evidentiary examination and medical support, a law enforcement officer who conducts and investigation and provides emergency assistance, and a victim advocate who provides emotional support to the victim.
The primary partners of Tulare County’s SART are:
- Family Services’ Rape Crisis Center
- The District Attorney’s Office
- Victim/Witness Assistance Center
- Forensic Nurse Specialists of Central California, Inc.
- Child Welfare Services
- Law Enforcement
Other agencies playing collaborative roles are:
- Adult Protective Services
- Family Services’ Domestic Violence Program
- Crime Laboratory
- Child Abuse Response Team (MDIT)
The Sexual Assault Response Team provides 24-hour multi-disciplinary response for sexual assault cases. Fortunately, this approach has been successful in creating positive relationships among partner agencies. Kaweah Delta Hospital generously provides a space within their facility for the forensic exams to take place. This has allowed law enforcement, forensic nurse specialist, and victim service providers to address the victim's needs in one safe location.
The group meets six times a year to collaborate and review cases. An average of 30 members attend each meeting. Depending on the intensity of the case, team members may be working together for months or years.
An advisory committee was created to plan trainings for SART members. The committee also helps train Family Services’ sexual assault victim counselors. Collectively, the team has also established protocols for responding to sexual assaults with a victim centered approach.
The SART team has served a vital role in the community for nearly 23 years.