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Get Them to the Table: Creating Buy-In Through Finding a SART Champion

You’re just starting out and having a hard time getting people committed to the idea of community response. Your team has been around for a while and people aren’t as committed as they used to be. People just won’t listen to you when try to talk about the real issues facing sexual violence victim/survivors in your area. Who here has experienced these kinds of issues? Over the last few weeks, I was talking with SARTs from different parts of a primarily rural state, and as part of my task, I made sure to ask everyone about their SART “origin story.” How did you get it started? What did it take to get all the players at the table? Consistently, I heard the same basic answer, “You have to find your champion.”

Well, for those of us with not much time or money or large distances to cover or complex populations that we work with, what does that exactly mean for SART leaders or those who want to spearhead efforts to create coordinated community responses? Who is a champion and how can you find them? What are you looking for? How do you know someone is right for the job? Here are some handy tips I found from talking to SART leaders at all stages in the process, nearly brand new to more than just a few years under their belts.

  1. Champions are invested in the topic of SARTs. Your champion needs to be passionate. If they aren’t invested in the SART, they’ll have a hard time convincing others that they should care about sexual assault response. We are all busy. We all have too much to do. We all want to make sure that people have access to justice. Well, this is true for most of us, anyways. Your job is to find someone who can channel and express that passion in a positive way that will motivate others to care, too. I’m sure you know someone who is that The one who is passionate but when you see them, you all run in the opposite direction to not get sucked into another 20 minute rant that annoys rather than excites.

I’ve been that person. Don’t be that person.

Make sure you find someone who can get the message across and get others invested.

  1. Champions understand the importance, the functions, and the impacts of a SART. This requires some finesse, on occasion. You may have someone with passion about sexual violence, but they don’t have a clear understanding of a SART’s purpose or work. Make sure to take plenty of time to clarify and reinforce the messages you need sent out to the community. Work as closely as you can to craft a clear picture of where you are, where you are going, and what you want to see be the result. SVJI has some good resources to help with that issue.
  2. Champions have some kind of power in the community. This doesn’t mean that they are Frank Underwood, someone willing to do anything at any cost to achieve their goals. Rather, your SART champion needs to be someone who has the ability to influence people’s decisions within your community. This may be a prosecutor or an important sheriff from a surrounding jurisdiction. It could be an extremely well connected person who feels passionate about sexual assault response and has sway with important folks who would be part of the SART. Your best bet is to pick a respected and strong political figure, if at all possible—however, that isn’t the only way. The key is to find someone who has a voice that gets people to listen and be on-board even when they have some hesitations. Choose someone with enough power to put some weight behind any requests.

When choosing a champion, you might not get the right person, right away. It’s okay! The folks I talked to about their SARTs said that the key is just keep asking! It might take some real persistence and shopping around to get the triple combo of passion, understanding, and power in your champion. However, eventually, you will find the right person to help you engage or reengage your SART in your area.

If you need further help or want to talk through ideas, remember, you can always reach out to SVJI or to your fellow leaders through this blog!

Questions, comments, requests, or compliments? All are welcome! Leave ‘em below!