Rape and sexual assault are persistent threats to public health and safety in Utah, with one in three women experiencing some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, while only 1 in 10 survivors surveyed say they reported the assault to police. Even with such low reporting rates, Utah’s reported rape rate has consistently been higher than the national average over the past 20 years.
Survivors of sexual assault in Utah who disclose the crime to police report a wide variation in availability of victim services and in the quality of law enforcement response. Limited access to crisis services and long-term counseling, as well as a lack of sexual assault response training and victim-centered policies in the criminal justice system, may result in additional trauma to victims and reduce the effectiveness of investigation and prosecution outcomes. In a 2007 study conducted by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, 45% of sexual assault victims who reported to police said they were satisfied with the police response, while 51% dissatisfied. Reasons listed for dissatisfaction with police included not treating them with respect, not believing them, or believing that the case involved consensual sex and therefore was not a crime.
While most victims surveyed who sought medical care reported that the doctor was aware that they had been sexually assaulted (73%), only 30% victims seeking care said that evidence was collected. Only one-third of the victims who reported to the police said that they had a victim advocate to assist them through the criminal justice process.
The purpose of our Sexual Assault Response Team Coordination Program is to maintain a statewide multi-disciplinary team of sexual assault experts to identify and disseminate evidence-based practices for responding to victims of sexual violence. The main goal of this team is to educate professionals to provide a trauma-informed victim-centered response to victims of sexual assault in order to enhance victim services, medical care, investigation, and prosecution. Recent research indicates that when victims of sexual assault receive comprehensive victim-centered care, this not only supports healing from trauma but also facilitates continued engagement of victims in the investigative and prosecutorial process, leading to an increased ability to hold perpetrators accountable.
The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Coordination Program has the following goals and objectives:
Goal: Strengthen formal and informal local and statewide multidisciplinary efforts to provide victim-centered response for victims of rape and sexual assault through law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, victim service agencies, medical providers, corrections, crime lab, and other state agencies and departments.
Objective: To help sexual assault service providers build, expand, formalize, and maintain strong interagency responses to sexual violence in communities where there is currently no coordinated multi-disciplinary response to rape and sexual assault.
Objective: Promote sustainability of existing SARTs by increasing team skills and capacity for a consistent victim-centered response that is culturally relevant and responsive to the unique needs of they communities they serve.
Are you interested in starting a SART in your area or looking for more information about an existing SART? You can contact UCASA at 801-746-0404 or [email protected].