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When Standalone Meetings No Longer Seem Workable

There are many reasons to have a standalone Sexual Assault Response Team in each community. 1) SARTs focus exclusively on sexual violence which is the most under-reported crime, 2) SARTs can be adaptable and grounded in specific experiences of sexual violence victim/survivors, 3) SARTs can specialize in changing specific practices when responding to sexual violence in the community. There are so many reasons—however, some regions cannot sustain a standalone SART after the initial development of the team or protocols. I’ve had a number of folks reach out and say, “Our rural agencies can’t attend so many meetings. Can we just combine?” The answer is not really and kind of.

When the issue of the standalone SART arises, you have some questions you need to answer honestly and openly as a team.

  • Can we reduce meeting frequency/length/location and still maintain a quality team?Sometimes, you can change up the components of the team meeting and this adjustment is enough to allow a standalone team to continue. Particularly around frequency and length of meetings, sometimes a team can move to bi-monthly in order to continue their good work in a more sustainable manner.
  • Can we create a new structure to meet team needs?Sometimes, teams will move to a subcommittee model. This is where the full team meets occasionally as a check-in and update time, and the subcommittee continues to meet regularly to make intensive progress on intiatives. Each committee focuses on a specific set of tasks that are related to their work. For example, think of a hospital protocol subcommittee, college/university subcommittee, or a law enforcement interviewing subcommittee.
  • Are there similar meetings where the majority of the team already meets?Some communities have meetings that center on child protection, domestic violence, or drug task forces. If the majority of your team is already there, perhaps adding an additional, separate SART meeting can reduce strain on the agencies in attendance and increase attendance at your meetings.
  • Can you be part of other meetings and still cover the important work of the SART?If you can’t add that extra SART meeting, can you combine with a similar focus meeting AND still advocate for sexual violence victim/survivors? This can be really challenging but is not outside of the realm of possibility. If you cannot *actually* do the work of the SART–and remained focused only on sexual violenceresponse–in this other meeting, it’s not a good choice.

Sustaining teams in rural spaces can pose some questions. If you are thinking of combining, consider the questions above with your team. Any experience with this process? Other questions you might want a team to ask themselves? Leave your thoughts in the comments!