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SART Foundations: Why Focus on Adult Sexual Violence?

This month, I want to tackle the question of team focus. When I say “team focus,” what I mean is the sort of crimes the team spends their time discussing and improving practice and policy. Many teams often struggle to focus on developing a cohesive, compassionate response to adult sexual violence.

This post serves to (briefly) explain why teams should focus their efforts on developing a meaningful response to adult cases.

  1. Adult cases often carry the most complexity in terms of perpetration type. Especially in terms of the types of connections between victim/survivor and perpetrator, adult cases run the range of strangers, family members, friends, acquaintances, stalkers, co-workers, intimate partners, health care providers, care givers, legal guardians, sexual exploitation, sex work, and more. When we build a response to sexual violence that can address all of these variations in cases of adult sexual violence, we build a response that can handle most cases of sexual violence.
  2. Adult cases often have the most victim-blame attached to them. In many cases of sexual violence happening to an adult, many folks still carry some level of victim-blame. Even the most dedicated sexual assault responder can sometimes hold a bias about what an adult should or should not have done to prevent the violence a perpetrator chose to inflict. When teams work on adult cases, they frequently find the places where bias (which is natural) exists, and they have the opportunity to address the bias in a positive manner. This allows teams and their home agencies to really make changes in attitude, practice, and policy.
  3. Adult cases matter. This should probably go without saying, but it is worth it to state it clearly. When we take adult cases seriously and build a meaningful response, service providers communicate that adult cases matter. Building up that trust means that more people can access the justice system. Victims/survivors deserve to be heard and those who perpetrate deserve the opportunity to be held accountable and do things differently.

So, when working in your team, take a moment to ask yourselves, where do we focus our energies and efforts? How can we expand that focus to build a meaningful response to adult cases of sexual violence? I promise, it will strengthen your work and will challenge you to do better for all victims/survivors.

Thoughts, comments, or questions? Anything to add to this discussion? Leave it below!