Sexual Assault Response Team Protocols

Arlington County’s Project PEACE is the coordinated community response dedicated to advancing the most effective and efficient array of education, prevention, protection, and support services to end domestic and sexual violence in the community. In 2019, Project PEACE published the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Protocols(PDF, 2MB), a county-wide, cooperative effort that outlines how service providers respond to calls from victims impacted by sexual assault. These protocols also define how ACPD, the INOVA Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team, and Doorways for Women and Families respond to and coordinate services.

The Facts

  • Rape is an act of violence. It is an attempt to control and degrade using sex as a weapon.
  • Rape can happen to anyone — children, students, wives, mothers, working women, grandmothers, boys and men.
  • Rapists can be anyone — classmates, co-workers, a neighbor or delivery person, ugly or attractive, outgoing or shy and often a friend or family member.
  • Rapists rape again and again, until caught.

General Common Sense Tips

Common Sense Indoors

  • Make sure all doors (don’t forget sliding glass doors) and windows have deadbolt locks, and use them! Install a peephole in the door. Keep entrances well-lit.
  • Never open your door to strangers. Offer to make an emergency call while someone waits outside. Check all sales or service people’s identification before letting them in. Don’t be embarrassed to phone for verification.
  • Be wary of isolated spots — apartment laundry rooms, underground garages, parking lots and offices after business hours. Walk with a friend, co-worker, or security guard, particularly at night.
  • Know your neighbors so you have someone to call or go to if you’re scared.
  • If you come home and see a door or window open or broken, don’t go in. Call the police from your cell phone or neighbor’s home.

Common Sense Outdoors

  • Avoid walking or jogging alone, especially at night. Stay in well-traveled, well-lit areas.
  • Wear clothes and shoes that give you freedom of movement.
  • Be careful if anyone in a car asks for directions — if you answer, keep your distance from the car.
  • Have your key ready before you reach the door — home, car or office.
  • If you think you’re being followed, change direction and head for open stores, restaurants, theaters or a lighted house.

Car Sense

  • Park in areas that will be well-lit and well-traveled when you return.
  • Always lock your car — when you get in and when you get out.
  • Look around your car and in the back seat before you get in.
  • If your car breaks down, lift the hood, lock the doors and turn on the flashers. Use a Call Police banner or flares. If someone stops, roll the window down slightly and ask the person to call the police or a tow service.
  • Don’t hitchhike, ever. Don’t pick up a hitchhiker.

When Rape Occurs

How should you handle a rape attempt? It depends on your physical and emotional state, the situation and the rapist’s personality. There are no hard and fast, right or wrong answers. Surviving is the goal.

  • Try to escape. Scream. Be rude. Make noise to discourage your attacker from following.
  • Talk, stall for time and assess your options.
  • If the rapist has a weapon, you may have no choice but to submit. Do whatever it takes to survive.
  • If you decide to fight back, you must be quick and effective. Target the eyes or groin.

Surviving Rape

  • Report rape or any sexual assault to the police or rape crisis center. The sooner you tell, the greater the chances the rapist will be caught.
  • Preserve all physical evidence. Don’t shower, bathe, change clothes, douche or throw any clothing away until the police or rape counselor say it’s okay.
  • Go to a hospital emergency room or your own doctor for medical care immediately.
  • Don’t go alone. Ask a friend or family member to go with you or call a rape crisis center or school counselor.
  • Get counseling to help deal with feelings of anger, helplessness, fear and shame caused by rape. It helps to talk to someone about the rape, whether it happened last night, last week or years ago.
  • Remember, rape is not your fault. Don’t accept blame for being an innocent victim.

Helping Someone Who Has Been Raped

  • Believe her or him.
  • Don’t blame the victim.
  • Offer support, patience and compassion to help the rape victim work through the crisis, heal and emerge a survivor.

Taking a Stand

  • Challenge society’s acceptance of rape as a less serious crime. Volunteer at a rape crisis center. Educate friends.
  • Ask a Neighborhood Alert group, school, employer, church, library or civic group to organize a workshop on preventing rape. Make sure it’s for men and women.
  • If you see a TV program or movie that reinforces sexual stereotypes and sends the message that women really like to be raped, protest. Write to the station, the studio or the sponsors. On the other side, publicly commend the media when they do a great job in depicting the realities of rape.