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SART Foundations: Engaging the Different Levels

When I first started as a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) coordinator, I thought I was only trying to engage individual people—working to get their participation, buy-in, and response. It took me a little bit to figure out that, when working on a SART, you have to be engaging several levels. And, when I say engaging, I mean that you are connecting, providing updates/information, and receiving feedback from those levels. This post serves to talk about some of the levels I’ve observed that are critical in ensuring the success of the team.

  • Individual: this is the most straightforward one. The individual level is all about finding out how to motivate and work with a single responder. This is truly about the personality of the representative who comes to meetings, responds to your emails, and provides feedback to the team on behalf of their agency. I typically find this one to be an easier level, because it requires some pretty small scale relationship building of a 1:1 format.
  • Leadership: Engaging the leadership level might be the same as the individual for some organizations, because there might only be that one person who is able to attend the SART—they are individual and agency leadership. However, many organizations have a team representative who is not also the agency leadership. Thus, when thinking about the SART’s work, how is the agency leadership being engaged and informed on progress or needed changes? To engage agency leadership, you might want to consider quarterly meetings or perhaps a regular check-in. Think through how you want leadership to be involved and engaged with the team’s purpose and products.
  • Agency: Agency engagement is truly about ensuring that the work of the team is understood and implemented by each agency that has agreed to participate in the SART. Too often, the communication between individual, leadership, and the whole agency has some gaps. Colleagues don’t understand the meeting their representative goes to every month or doesn’t know about the changes that are needed in the sexual violence response. Work with your team to determine how to engage the whole agency in a meaningful way.
  • Systems: this always feels like one of the hard ones. When I ask people to think of engaging systems, they often struggle to pinpoint how to do it. I struggle, too. However, some teams have engaged systems by connecting with state associations—Law enforcement or prosecutor’s or judges. Or they connect with national discipline associations to get the information, training, and changes the SART needs to see at the local level. When we engage systems, we are getting to the root policies and practices that will change the entire system, which trickles down to agencies, leadership, and individuals.

Engagement is a critical element of our work on the SART. Team members have a wealth of knowledge and connections that can assist us in making meaningful connections to all the different levels. Giving and receiving information from each level through strategic engagement can positively influence the work of the local SART and make changes that impact the victim/survivor experience with systems in positive ways.

Do you have experience with or ideas about engaging the different levels of folks connected to the SART? Is something still unclear? Leave your comments and questions below!