Local agencies will be working together to focus on how to address sexual assault cases in Denton County.
On Tuesday, Denton County commissioners approved the creation of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) tasked with establishing an interagency protocol for local and regional processes for investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases as well as obtaining care for victims. The team will also be responsible for collecting data on sexual assaults and providing a written report every two years that will be available to the public and presented to commissioners every two years.
The protocol, set to be established by Dec. 1, 2022, will be distributed to all responding law enforcement and service providers within the county.
The team’s creation comes as a state law requirement after Texas Senate Bill 476, authored by State Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, was signed into law in June and became effective in September. According to county paperwork, team’s creation aims to create systems that reduce re-traumatization and prioritize victim safety.
Lori Nelson and Daysia Pink, both of Denton County Friends of the Family, were appointed to serve on the team. For Nelson, the creation of the SART provides a way to connect with the multiple systems that address sexual assaults.
“One of my biggest goals in my role at Friends of the Family and also just in my career in victim services, has been collaboration with systems, that we break down the silos between victim services and law enforcement and prosecution and mental health providers, and that’s exactly what this SART team looks to do,” Nelson said.
The team currently includes representatives from the Denton County District Attorney’s office, the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, the Denton Police Department and the Denton County MHMR Center, which serves as a mental health provider. The team also has two Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner/Forensic Examiners who provide exams within the county.
“We’ll definitely be looking at who else needs to be at the table as we move forward,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the team recently had an informal preliminary meeting and that the first official meeting is slated for January.
“I think it’s important that we recognize these victims and that we do everything we can to help them,” Commissioner Diane Edmondson said Tuesday. “I know we’re doing a good job already here in Denton County. This will just enhance our efforts and make us much more responsive.”