FCASV Statement Regarding Misinformed ‘Victims of Sexual Offenses’ Bill
SB 1530 filed by Senator Lauren Book this week, while well intended, erroneously implies that Sexual Assault Response Teams (SARTs) don’t currently exist and, in doing so, undermines the functioning SARTs presently coordinated by the state’s certified sexual assault programs. Companion HB 1189 filed by Representative Randy Fine also matches this language.
Consistent with rape crisis center certification standards established in 2005 and monitored by the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV), all of Florida’s 31 certified sexual assault programs currently coordinate SARTs in their service areas. Many of these programs have been leading local teams for nearly two decades, and FCASV has provided technical assistance and training statewide and in local communities regarding SART development and implementation during this time.
SARTs provide a forum for problem solving, establishing and reviewing community-wide protocols, enhancing communication and working relationships, and improving the first response to victims and survivors. Members are allied professionals who meet regularly to ensure the systems—advocacy, law enforcement, health care, and others—in each community or jurisdiction are collaborating effectively to provide survivors with the best possible response.
The bills err by tasking county health departments (CHDs) with “establishing” the local teams or requiring CHDs to enter into collaborative agreements with other jurisdictions to establish SARTs. While health departments across the state work collaboratively with sexual assault programs, they are not the experts in the coordinated community response to sexual violence, which includes the provision of immediate and ongoing advocacy services, trauma-focused therapy, medical forensic exams, and a multitude of holistic and trauma-focused supports. County health departments should not duplicate efforts already led by sexual assault programs, which have been coordinating SARTs for years.
FCASV is calling on Sen. Book and Rep. Fine to amend their bills immediately to reflect the work already being done by countless sexual assault programs, advocates, and allied professionals in communities across our state.