Richland County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) signs New Cooperative Work Agreement

COLUMBIA, SC - April 25, 2010 - April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and today community organizations that are part of the Richland County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) announced a new cooperative working agreement to facilitate more comprehensive care to sexual assault victims. The new agreement reinforces the team’s commitment to provide a safe and comfortable environment for victims. Through collaboration with new partners, the agreement also helps hold sex offenders and domestic violence offenders more accountable.

In addition to the new collaborative agreement, the Regional Forensic Nurse Examiner (RFNE) program is being introduced, which was made possible by a Violence Against Women Act grant. The RFNE program , made possible by a grant from S.C. Department of Public Safety, as well as funding from Palmetto Health, Lexington Medical Center and Providence Hospitals, helps pool resources to provide a regional team that will be available 24 hours-a-day, every day in the 5th and 11th Judicial Circuit area. This covers Richland, Lexington, Kershaw, Saluda, McCormick and Edgefield counties and includes eight hospitals in those counties. Sexual assault victims in these counties now will have professionally trained staff in their counties to care for them and provide much needed resources.

“Timely, victim-sensitive and coordinated response to sexual assault is directly tied to our vision to ensure that patients are cared for as we would want our families and ourselves,” said Jay Hamm, vice president of emergency and surgical service.  “Our goal has always been to increase the likelihood that victims will seek follow-up assistance and long-term support to promote healing. Through our collaboration, we let victims and criminals know that our community takes the crime of sexual assault seriously. We will continue to raise the standard of care in treating victims medically and legally.”

The RFNE team will provide care for patients up to 120 hours post assault and will include all ages. In the past, patients were cared for only up to72 hours post assault. The team now will be able to complete domestic violence examinations documenting the injuries sustained. Previously this service was only provided for sexual assault victims, not domestic violence.

Tricia Phaup, chair of Richland County SART added, “Through the dedication of the Richland County SART members, we have worked collaboratively to build an infrastructure to support and expand our programs and services providing seamless systemic care for survivors of interpersonal violence in the midlands area.  It is our hope that this program will become a beacon for other counties in our state to follow.  We need our political leaders and private community partners to seek means to ensure that every victim of interpersonal violence in the state is provided excellent forensic care and coordinated services through a local SART.”

Collaboration in the Richland County SART program includes:

  • Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE) Team with Palmetto Health Richland,
  • Assessment and Resource Center,
  • Office of the Attorney General,
  • Post Trauma Resources,
  • City of Columbia Police Department,
  • Richland County Sheriff’s Department,
  • Forest Acres Police Department,
  • Columbia College Police Department,
  • USC Division of Law Enforcement & Safety,
  • Fort Jackson Criminal Investigations Division
  • 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office (Richland County),
  • Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands,
  • Sistercare, Inc.,
  • State Office of Victim Assistance (SOVA) - Office of the Governor, and
  • USC Violence Prevention & Intervention Center (VIPC).

About Richland County SART

Richland County SART began in 1999 and since its implementation; it has grown dramatically both through individual participants, disciplines and services. The mission of the team is to coordinate collaborative medical, legal and support/psychological services for sexual assault victims.