Sexual assault response teams' responses to alcohol-using victims

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine sexual assault response team (SART) professionals' understanding of team protocols and procedures for responding to victims who report alcohol intoxication prior to the sexual assault, while highlighting important considerations that factor into medical, criminal justice, and victim advocacy professionals' decision making about responding to victims' alcohol use. Telephone surveys with 79 medical, criminal justice, and victim advocacy professionals involved with each of the three active SARTs in the state were conducted. The results show that most commonly mentioned responses of professionals to a victim's use of alcohol in a hypothetical case were to establish the facts of the case and validate that the victim's intoxication did not excuse the perpetrator's actions. However, professionals largely did not believe that there were systematic responses to victims reporting alcohol use at the time of the sexual assault, and risks associated with substance use or abuse were, for the most part, not addressed during the first response of SARTs to victims. Implications for practice and research are discussed within the context of study limitations.

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