Facilitating Effective Community Response to Sexual Violence

Effective Communication Leads to Effective Collaboration

In my years working with survivors of sexual assault, I have heard the same message again and again from responders in diverse fields. From detectives, advocates, nurses, lawyers, survivors, and their family and friends, the same two messages come through:

  1. I want to help survivors, And
  2. No one understands me.

The problem is not that we have different goals. The problem is instead in the language we are speaking. I am not talking about actual language (though now that I think of it, advocates working with non-English speakers probably have a lot to say on this too…) Law enforcement speaks cop, advocates speak advocate, medical personnel speak hospital, and lawyers speak law, (and they often speak it very quickly.) If everyone could just learn to speak each other’s’ languages, we could all realize that we have the same goals, just very different ways of reaching those goals.

Collaborating to Serve Survivors & Our Communities

To surpass these challenges, professionals must learn to work together for survivors. Formalized Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) across the country exist for just this purpose. Collaborative SARTs are recognized as a best practice nationally, and have been proven to help survivors and prosecution of perpetrators.

SARTs are a place for anyone who works with survivors of sexual violence to come together to figure out how to best help survivors access seamless, meaningful services. By coming together to the same table, people from disparate fields can listen to each other, better understand their colleagues, and work together to streamline policy and procedure so that everyone benefits. Collaboration is a skill, and one that does not come easily. Teams must actively seek out training on and opportunities to collaborate. Though it is challenging to work together, it is worth it. When professionals work together and trust each other, survivors notice. Research shows that communities who have positive relationships between sexual assault responders have better investigations and better prosecution rates.

Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about how to collaborate as a team to create effective SARTs, we encourage you to register for LaFASA’s Creating Effective SARTs for your Community. This training is great for teams with existing SARTs or individuals who are looking to form new SARTs. For training dates, locations, and registration information please visit, lafasa.org.

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