NJCASA Applauds Updates to New Jersey’s Sexual Violence Response Procedures

November 27, 2018

Trenton, N.J. – Today, New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a directive pertaining to how authorities and professionals in New Jersey respond to sexual assault.

The directive outlines new procedures for prosecuting sexual assault, including improved communication and transparency with victims, and approves the latest version of the Attorney General Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault. These standards outline policies and procedures for sexual assault response team (SART) services in the state. The SART provides a coordinated response to victims of sexual assault and is comprised of a law enforcement officer, a confidential sexual violence advocate (CSVA), and a forensic nurse examiner (FNE).

A victim of sexual assault is eligible for the services of the SART when the assault occurred within the past five days and the victim consents to a SART activation. SART’s survivor-centered approach affirms a survivor’s choice in the wake of a horrific victimization.

“For two years, NJCASA has had the honor of working with a multidisciplinary team of professionals on the revision of the ‘AG Standards,’” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “Attorney General Grewal supported that work by issuing these revised guidelines and outlining new measures for prosecutors to improve communication with victims of sexual violence. These revised Attorney General Standards address gaps in policy and procedure and seek to ensure all survivors of sexual violence in New Jersey have access to appropriate crisis services. For victims seeking services in the aftermath of a sexual assault, access to a timely, trauma-informed response can lay a solid foundation for pathways to healing and justice. We will continue to work with our colleagues across disciplines to monitor implementation of the new guidelines and accompanying directives and remain committed to identifying other opportunities to work together to create a safer, more equitable New Jersey,” Teffenhart continued.

“Our work with the current and former administration on this issue further highlights what we continually affirm: sexual violence is not a partisan issue,” Teffenhart continued. “Through collaboration, we’ve expanded the length of time New Jersey retains rape kits, established mandatory law enforcement training, and released these necessary updates to the ‘AG Standards’ all with the goal of building a better infrastructure for the 1.8M survivors of sexual violence who call New Jersey home.”

“While much has been done through the years to make law enforcement, healthcare professionals, and other service providers more responsive to the needs of sexual assault victims, there is always room for re-examination and improvement,” said Attorney General Grewal. “The directive and standards issued today are the result of outstanding collaboration among law enforcement, the service community, and advocates for sexual assault survivors.  Moreover, these documents provide for increased input from victims and further evaluation of these issues going forward. With these actions, we ensure that New Jersey remains at the forefront of nationwide best practices and standards in our efforts to stamp out sexual violence.”

Today’s release updates the 2004 version of the Attorney General Standards. National research found that victims of sexual violence who work with CSVAs reported better outcomes, including more “positive experiences with medical and legal systems, increased reporting and receipt of medical care, and decreased feelings of distress” (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2016).

ABOUT NJCASA: NJCASA (www.njcasa.org) is the statewide advocacy and capacity building organization that represents the twenty-one county-based rape crisis centers, and the Rutgers University Office of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. NJCASA elevates the voice of sexual violence survivors and service providers by advocating for survivor-centered legislation, training allied professionals, and supporting statewide prevention strategies that work to address and defy the socio-cultural norms that permit and promote rape culture.