History

The SARRT was initially formed in 1992 as a collaborative, multidisciplinary task force. In 2003, the SARRT formalized its partnerships by joining together in the first CWA. This body has demonstrated its willingness and capacity to seek out and put new learning into effect (e.g., participation in the Making a Difference (MAD) initiative created by End Violence Against Women International). In 2004, a multidisciplinary, eight-person team of SARRT members took part in intensive MAD training on strategies for more effective investigation and prosecution of non-stranger sexual assault cases. The SARRT members subsequently put into effect a number of the presented best practices.

The CWA was renewed a second time in 2009, with updates on best practices and current participating agencies. The CWA was most recently updated in 2017, with 13 agencies participating from several different sectors.

In 2015, the Austin Police Department received notice that the local SANE program would terminate their services in Travis County. In response, the SARRT members – including individuals from local law enforcement, hospitals, and the prosecutor’s office – developed and supported a new SANE program at The SAFE Alliance. In its first year, that program saw significantly reduced exam wait times for survivors across the county.

In 2016, SARRT members advocated heavily for an increase in lab staffing after the Austin DNA lab was shut down. Over time, it became clear to the community that the lab had lacked the needed capacity for sexual assault kit (SAK) testing. This advocacy was instrumental in Austin City Council’s decision to fund eight new analyst positions at the local lab.

Most recently, SARRT identified a strong level of interest in providing community trainings and awareness to address sexual assault prevention. A permanent subcommittee was created with this intention. In order to handle the influx of cold cases resulting from untested SAK testing, the APD’s Sex Crimes Unit has experienced a 33 percent increase in staffing. SARRT members are collaborating to develop a community-wide counseling program to implement as the backlog is cleared.

Since the completion of data collection for this assessment a second, limited membership team that includes a couple of current SARRT members was developed in Austin/Travis County to respond to sexual assault.

A 2015, Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) Grant
to Encourage Arrests was awarded to The SAFE Alliance and two SARRT member agencies. The purpose of this grant was to assess and improve the community-wide response to post-pubescent adolescent and adult sexual assault survivors. The grant outlined a community-wide needs assessment for the SARRT in Austin/Travis County as one of its primary objectives. The needs assessment was conducted by the SARRT Coordinator, a position that was funded through the OVW Grant to Encourage Arrests.