Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART) are available to help survivors.
A SART consisting of nurse examiners, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and rape crisis advocates are available in Washoe, Placer and Nevada Counties. The SART teams were created to provide immediate and on-going support for the victim of a sexual assault and to improve prosecution rates. Although team members have different functions within SART, the members work together to ensure the needs of the survivor are met.
What Happens When a Sexual Assault Victim Calls for Help?
Typically the sexual assault victim calls 911, Tahoe SAFE Alliance Helpline, or may go directly to the hospital to report the sexual assault. A law enforcement officer then takes the initial statement and calls in an investigator who determines if there is a need for an evidentiary exam. If the officer believes that a sexual assault has occurred, and the victim consents to the exam, the victim is then notified of her/his right to a rape crisis advocate and another support person of her/his choosing. At this point, the law enforcement officer calls Tahoe SAFE Alliance to let the agency know that a victim is in need of an advocate at the hospital. A trained rape crisis advocate from Tahoe SAFE Alliance meets the victim at the hospital to provide advocacy and support. The nurse and officer interview the victim in order to gather evidence and information necessary for the exam as well as to locate and arrest the suspect. The nurse then conducts the evidentiary exam with the advocate present. The advocate provides counseling and support and ensures that the victim has a safe place to stay that night as well as clean clothes and transportation. The advocate then contacts the victim in the next few days to continue advocacy and schedule additional counseling if requested. The advocate continues to provide support for the victim throughout the criminal justice process.
What Hospitals Perform the Evidentiary Exam?
After years of hard work, the Placer and Nevada County SART team members have come together to create a protocol that allows sexual assault victims to receive the evidentiary exam at Tahoe Forest Hospital. Before this groundbreaking agreement, Placer County victims were transported to Auburn for the exam. Distance and inclement weather discouraged victims from getting the proper care and support. The Nevada County SART Team paid for the training of three nurses to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) at Tahoe Forest Hospital. In addition, Placer County hosted a training for all nurses, law enforcement officers, district attorneys and advocates. Tahoe SAFE Alliance staff members attended the 4-day training to enhance their skills in advocacy. The Office of Criminal Justice Planning provided new equipment for the exams including advanced camera equipment that will allow nurses at Tahoe Forest Hospital to consult with the UC Davis Medical Center. If the sexual assault occurs in Washoe County, the victim is transported to Washoe Medical Center or Saint Mary’s Hospital in Reno. A Tahoe SAFE Alliance advocate meets the victim in Reno to provide support and counseling.