SMART Response to Sexual Assault: STOP in Action Minnesota
Minnesota SMART Teams Improve Response to Survivors of Sexual Assault
For the past ten years, STOP grants (law enforcement and prosecution categories) have supported Sexual Assault Multi-disciplinary Action Teams (SMART). SMART teams were developed for the purpose of developing effective, victim-centered responses to sexual assault, with a primary focus on improving the criminal justice system response.
Currently there are eleven SMART teams. Teams must consist of, at a minimum, local law enforcement, medical providers, sexual assault advocacy agencies, and the prosecutor’s office. Many teams include additional members such as agencies serving culturally specific populations, colleges and universities, social services, public health, corrections, and faith communities.
The Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI) of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, is the OVW-funded training and technical assistance agency that works closely with county-based SMART teams. SVJI helps guide teams as they follow the 8-Step Protocol Development Cycle. SVJI provides training, consultation and assistance to teams within each stage of the cycle.
The Protocol Development Cycle contains the following steps: 1) inventory of existing services; 2) victim experience survey; 3) community needs assessment; 4) write protocol; 5) renew interagency agreements; 6) train personnel; 7) monitor protocol implementation; 8) evaluate the protocol’s effectiveness. The 8-step process begins with an assessment of the community’s current response to sexual assault. The SMART then works to develop its own coordinated response. Together, team members negotiate protocols consistent with the group’s vision and the roles and responsibilities of each agency.
The teams have dramatically improved their communities’ responses to sexual violence through protocols, coordination, communication, and unified goals to create an improved, victim-centered response. Funding SMART projects and SVJI has been an effective use of VAWA sexual assault special project funding for criminal justice systems change, and has resulted in real, substantive improvement across Minnesota. In addition, SMART teams have developed specialized protocols addressing specific populations, (e.g. youth, culturally-specific communities, homeless, Native American women, etc.). Minnesota SMART teams have also been instrumental in developing start-up SANE programs in hospitals.
 Boles and Patterson (1997), Improving Community Response to Crime Victims: An Eight-Step Model for Developing Protocol