By: Jessica Shorten
CONROE, TX – The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is preparing a special response team to handle adult sexual assault and rape cases after the passage of SB-476 during the regular legislative session earlier this year.
During an informational segment, First Assistant District Attorney Mike Holley and Division Chief Tiana Sanford laid out a plan to implement a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) to handle sexual assault crime in individuals 18 and older. This does not include adults who were victims of sexual assaults as children, which fall under child crime task forces.
“Unfortunately, it’s a very common crime. 1 in 5 Texas women and 1 in 20 Texas men will likely suffer as a result of this crime over the course of their lifetime, and the majority of these crime are committed by individuals that the victim knows,” stated Holley. “We want to put some resources on this problem and add some emphasis on this issue.”
Sanford then explained to the court the SART would be comprised of six core members: a Chief Administrator of services to adult sexual assault victims, the police chief of the largest municipality in Montgomery County, which would be Conroe PD, the Sheriff, a prosecutor dedicated to adult sexual assault crimes, a sexual assault-trained nurse examiner, and a trained expert in behavior health services.
The purpose of this team is to put together a plan and written protocol for handling adult sexual assault cases. According to the legislation, the protocol must include plans to share information between local, state, and federal agencies in adult rape cases. This team will be required to meet at least four times a month and provide a report to Commissioners Court at least once a year regarding their progress on finding and prosecuting sexual assault cases in adults, including a breakdown of cases presented and prosecuted.
“We are doing an excellent job in prioritizing victims of all of our offenses in regards to sexual assault, but in the same way we were doing right by our victims of child fatalities, child sexual assault, and even human trafficking; this is an opportunity like all of the multi-disciplinary teams that we used in those cases,” said Division Chief Sanford. “This is an opportunity for us to form a team so that we can improve what we are doing.”
While numerous resources have been put toward finding and prosecuting sexual assault crimes against children, sexual assault crimes including rape in adults can have difficulty in reaching the prosecution stage. A problem exacerbated by the fact over 90% of rapes and sexual assaults in adults go unreported.
While no appointments to the SART were made today, District Attorney Brett Ligon will be before the Court to formally discuss creating the team and appointing members. Members of the team would have to be appointed by no later than December 1st in odd numbered years.