Sexual Assault Response Teams Hit New York City


A special phone in three New York City hospitals may make a big difference to sexual assault survivors in the Bronx borough, says Women’s eNews. The phone has a special ring–more shrill than others in the emergency room–and it will sound only when a sexual-assault victim arrives at hospitals taking part in the city’s first Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).

Beginning this month, the special phone will set in motion a team of on-call rape counselors, sexual-assault forensic examiners, social workers, and law enforcement officers who will meet the victim at the hospital. They will coordinate efforts to provide care to the victim and bring the alleged perpetrator to justice.

The team adds New York to a growing roster of cities, including Los Angeles, adopting the approach. If successful, New York’s program will be expanded to the city’s other four boroughs. “The SART model is really the model that is catching on,” said Linda Ledray, director of the Sexual Assault Resource Service in Minneapolis, which helps institutions start up such teams. Ledray, a registered nurse, began one of the first such teams in Minneapolis in 1977. Her Web site counts at least 50 sex-assault response teams scattered throughout the country.

The teams are part of a push to improve rape treatment and make it so that victims are not re-traumatized by long emergency-room waits and inexperienced clinicians. The Bronx was chosen as the site of New York’s program because of its disproportionately high rape total. With 16 percent of the city’s population, the northern borough reported 26 percent of the city’s rapes in 2003.

The Bronx team will include up to 15 sexual-assault forensic examiners, 50 rape-victim advocates, more than 5 social workers and members of local law enforcement and the district attorney’s office. The teams are funded with $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice and New York State.


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