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Understanding SART in San Diego


The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) started in 1990 after a rape victim had difficulty finding treatment. Officers spent nine hours transporting her from place to place until they found a facility equipped to handle rape treatment. Today, the unit provides a safe, team approach to rape response for the benefit of the victim. SART has two main goals in each case it handles – to improve resources available to the victim after an experience and to properly collect the evidence needed to pursue the offender.


Each SART team includes a law enforcement officer, a trained nurse, and a victim advocate. Together, the team assists survivors after an incident and conducts an investigation focused on the unique nature of sex crimes. Now the San Diego unit includes 13 detectives and 2 sergeants who are responsible for handling around 1,000 cases every year.

How Does SART Work?

Sexual assault victims can always call 911 in the event of an emergency or reach out to any of the resources available through SART, including local law enforcement departments, the district attorney’s office, rape crisis centers, or area hospitals. If you are the victim of a sexual assault incident, notify the authorities as soon as you can. SART will arrange for immediate services to help you through the situation.

After a victim reports a crime, the local law enforcement agency may respond. If responders determine a sex crime has occurred, they will immediately contact a SART facility and transport the victim for care. A SART-trained nurse and victim advocate will respond to the situation and begin a forensic examination while protecting the victim’s privacy and emotional needs. During this process, the advocate is available to help the victim identify support resources and referrals.

Working with law enforcement, the SART team will move forward with any evidence discovered during the investigation. A detective may further explore the scene of the crime and collect other evidence as needed.

If and when law enforcement agents apprehend the offender and pursue criminal charges, the team’s crisis advocates will provide ongoing support for the survivor. Under the state’s Victims of Crime Compensation Program, a survivor may have the ability to secure compensation to cover the costs of medical care, mental health care, job retraining, and loss of income.

What a Victim Can Expect

When a victim calls for help, a law enforcement officer will arrive on the scene and immediately take action to protect the victim, identify the need for immediate medical care, and check the surrounding area for a suspect. For crimes reported within 72 hours, an officer will work with SART to secure an immediate medical evaluation. For those reported after the 72-hour window, the officer will schedule an evaluation during normal operating hours, unless the individual requires immediate care.

The Judicial Procedures Associated with SART

After an arrest, a defendant will face arraignment and may or may not have the opportunity to post bail. During a preliminary hearing, the judge will determine if the evidence warrants a trial. If so, the defendant will undergo arraignment in Superior Court and then plead guilty or not guilty before the trial date.

Knowing how SART operates in San Diego is important for anyone that has been accused of sexual assault. As a victim sensitive program, their immediate investigation could prove costly to your case if you do not have your own legal counsel on your side. Mistakes and wrongful accusations can be made, so be sure to contact a San Diego sexual assault attorney who knows how to defend your rights if you have been wrongfully accused of a crime.