Accessing Support Through Sexual Assault Response Teams


Sexual violence isn’t just about the immediate physical harm. It can ripple through every aspect of a survivor’s life, affecting their safety, health, relationships, and even their financial situation. From finding the right support to handling legal proceedings, dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault can be stressful—and it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed during this process.

A sexual assault response team (SART) is a group of professionals who come together to support survivors of sexual assault. Whether it’s finding medical care, understanding legal options, or seeking a safe place to stay, a SART can help you take the next step with confidence and clarity.  

Instead of bouncing around from one agency to another, trying to explain your situation over and over again, working with the local team in Wayne and Holmes County can help bring everything together in one place. No matter where you are in the process, here’s how our local SART can help guide you through the services and support available to survivors.

What Is a Sexual Assault Response Team?

A sexual assault response team (SART) is a coordinated group of professionals from various fields, including law enforcement, medical, legal, and advocacy services, who work together to provide comprehensive support to survivors of sexual assault. These teams aim to streamline the process for survivors, offering a centralized point of contact for accessing medical care, legal assistance, counseling, and other support services.

We’re setting up the protocol for our whole county of how to respond if someone is sexually assaulted,” said Kate Abruzzino, Victim Advocacy and Outreach Manager at OneEighty. “If we go to the hospital, we take a paper along with us that’s a release. If the survivor is willing to, they can sign the release so we can have a discussion with the nurse and law enforcement about the case, which will help them get connected to those people if they need to. We’re working together as a team.”

The goal of SART is to ensure that survivors receive sensitive, timely, and effective assistance while navigating the aftermath of sexual assault. The three key components of a SART include:

  • A sexual assault nurse (SANE): SANEs are specially trained nurses who play a crucial role in providing medical care to survivors. They assess injuries, provide treatment, collect evidence, and offer support and resources.
  • Law enforcement: Law enforcement officers are responsible for investigating cases of sexual assault, collecting evidence, and ensuring the legal process moves forward. They work closely with survivors to gather information.
  • Advocates: Advocates specialize in supporting survivors of sexual assault through the aftermath of the experience. They provide emotional support, help survivors understand their rights and options, and connect them with additional resources such as counseling, housing assistance, or legal aid.

How Does Sexual Assault Response Work?

SARTs follow a collaborative approach to provide comprehensive support to survivors of sexual assault. When a survivor seeks help, the response begins immediately. This could happen at a hospital, police station, or through a hotline. SART members are often available 24/7 to respond promptly to survivors’ needs.

For most survivors, the priority is medical care. A sexual assault nurse or another medical professional will assess the survivor’s physical injuries, provide treatment, and offer options for preventing sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy. They may also collect forensic evidence if the survivor chooses to undergo a forensic examination. If the survivor chooses to report the assault to law enforcement, police officers will become involved. They will conduct interviews, gather evidence, and investigate the case.

Throughout the process, advocates are also there to support the survivor. “I oversee the victim advocates at our agency. So that’s part of this team, because our advocates are part of the sexual assault response team,” said Kate Abruzzino. “The other way I’m involved is that I train our agency’s hospital advocates that are volunteers, that come on board to OneEighty. They do a couple of levels of training to become a volunteer, and then I provide them with their tier-three training, where they learn how to be a first responder to a survivor at the hospital.”

How Do Hospital Advocates and Volunteers Provide Support?

Throughout Wayne and Holmes Counties, OneEighty’s advocates play a crucial role in providing support to survivors of sexual assault, with a primary focus on giving the victim more control over their situation. 

In addition to helping survivors understand their rights and options, advocates offer emotional support by validating their experiences. They create a nonjudgmental space where survivors can express their feelings and concerns without the fear of being blamed or criticized. This supportive environment helps survivors feel heard, validated, and respected.

Advocates also work with survivors to develop safety plans tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. This might involve identifying safe places to stay, arranging transportation to and from appointments, and connecting victims with resources for emergency assistance if needed. By prioritizing safety, advocates help survivors regain a sense of security and control over their lives.

Above all else, our advocates work with other members of the SART to create a safe and supportive environment for survivors. They communicate regularly with medical professionals, law enforcement officers, and other service providers to ensure the survivor receives the support and assistance they need.

Standing by Survivors Every Step of the Way

Throughout the entire process, SART members work together closely to ensure that the survivor’s needs are met comprehensively and compassionately. Depending on the team, this may involve regular meetings, communication, and coordination of services to provide the best possible support for the survivor.

The main focus of a SART is “putting together the protocol of how we’re going to respond to sexual assault in our community,” according to Kate Abruzzino. “For example, that’s why if somebody presents to the hospital or to law enforcement, it will set a series of events in motion to get somebody to the hospital for the exam, to get either an advocate or a hospital advocate to volunteer there to provide support. It just kind of starts the ball rolling.”

We’re here to support you.

We help people change direction with programs for addiction, domestic violence, rape crisis, mental health, housing, and prevention and education. At OneEighty, we actively support an evidence-based approach to sustainable recovery from trauma and addiction – restoring dignity and purpose, reimagining potential, and rebuilding lives. OneEighty offers counseling programs, intensive addiction treatment programs, group addiction treatment, residential services, victim services, recovery housing, and peer recovery.

OneEighty Resources

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