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AG Platkin announces new law enforcement guidelines for sexual assault responses

Directive Expands the Timeframe for Sexual Assault Response Team Activation and Makes Trauma-Informed Services More Readily Available to Survivors

NEW JERSEY – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin Thursday announced he has issued a Directive to law enforcement that expands the standard Sexual Assault Response Team activation period from five to seven days from when the incident is reported to have occurred, providing survivors of sexual assault more time to access the trauma-informed services consistent with enhancements in medical and forensic science.

The Attorney General announced the Directive at the Sexual Violence Prevention Symposium hosted at the New Jersey State Police Forensic Technology Center in Hamilton by the Office of the Attorney General, the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ), and the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance (VIVA).

“As forensic science capabilities evolve, so must our law enforcement guidance,” Platkin said. “Expanding SART activation and response time further is well supported by research and will provide more victims and survivors of sexual violence with an opportunity to access available services.”

New Jersey was an early adopter of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) models of care, beginning with SART pilot programs in several counties in 1997 that were then required in every county in 1998 in a first-in-the-nation initiative.

At the time, because of scientific limitations that existed a quarter-century ago, the coordinated SART response was limited to the first 72 hours after an act of sexual violence occurred. That was later expanded to five days, which until today remained the standard in New Jersey.

Under Attorney General Law Enforcement Directive No. 2024-02, the standard SART activation period is now seven days from when the incident is reported to have occurred.

In some situations, sexual assault forensic exams could be conducted as late as nine days after an assault. The Directive says that would be determined by a forensic nurse examiner who is consulted in situations where a victim reports continued pain, presence of visible injury, or other extenuating circumstances.

“Together, we continue to identify ways to expand access to justice and healing for survivors of sexual violence,” said Patricia Teffenhart, Executive Director of the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance. “The new Directive reinforces the Department’s commitment to using every tool available to us. Using science and data to inform updates to our policies and practices ensures that survivors of sexual assault have access to every resource at our disposal to support them in the aftermath of victimization.”

“We are committed to policies that provide victims of sexual violence more time to choose to meet with a forensic nurse examiner,” said Director of Criminal Justice J. Stephen Ferketic. “These policies lead to well-prepared medical documents, appropriately stored specimens, and photographic images that will improve prosecutions.”

This Directive is a complement to a portfolio of innovative strategies, policies, and procedures implemented by the Department of Law and Public Safety (“the Department”) over the last few years to strengthen the State’s support for survivors of sexual violence:

  • In January 2023, Attorney General Platkin created the Human Trafficking Unit, within DCJ, to focus exclusively on investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes in New Jersey.
  • That followed the creation of VIVA, a division that uses a trauma-informed approach to support the Department’s efforts to reduce and respond to interpersonal and community violence across the state.
  • In 2023, the Attorney General issued Directive 2023-1, which implemented standards consistent with national best practices in the collection, storage, and retention of sexual assault kits, in addition to standardizing the information recorded on these kits.
  • And in November 2023, the Department received $2 million in federal funding to establish an advanced tracking system for the state’s Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) Kits, which are used to preserve physical evidence collected from medical forensic examinations conducted by qualified nurses after an individual has experienced an act of sexual violence.

While the Attorney General’s Office has hosted convenings in the past, through a strategic partnership between VIVA and DCJ, the office is introducing the Attorney General’s Symposium Series – four distinct days throughout the year to address four distinct types of victimization. The next event in the series will focus on community violence in June.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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