TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today took important steps to ensure that victims of sexual assault continue to receive the services and respect they deserve and that their cases are handled in accordance with best practices by law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
Attorney General Grewal today issued the Attorney General Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault, Third Edition (“Standards”). The Standards establish 14 protocols that prioritize the needs and concerns of victims and seek to continue and expand upon current practices to ensure that victims receive respectful treatment and appropriate services. The Standards update prior editions of such standards by addressing recent changes in law and policy, advances in evidence-based practices, and current realities impacting victims and affected populations. The Standards also provide for more victim feedback and greater accountability with regard to services. The Standards were formulated collaboratively in a lengthy process involving a working group consisting of prosecutors, healthcare professionals, service providers, victim advocates, the Courts, and others.
Simultaneously, Attorney General Grewal issued a statewide law enforcement directive to ensure implementation of the enhanced standards and improve protocols and oversight for sexual assault investigations and prosecutions. In an effort to better track and evaluate these cases, Attorney General Directive 2018-5 establishes new reporting requirements and provides for the gathering and evaluation of data on Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) activations, sexual assault investigations and prosecutions, disposition of cases, and factors used in determining case dispositions. It also requires each county prosecutor’s office to develop and implement procedures and protocols requiring law enforcement agencies to report sexual assault incidents and complaints within 24 hours. Under this directive, victims are provided the opportunity to meet with an assistant prosecutor in person to explain the basis when a prosecution will not go forward.
“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.”
“Prosecutors in this State have long made sex crimes a priority in their offices, and that attentiveness has resulted in practices that are reflected in what we are already doing. However, we need to do everything in our power to deliver the services that sexual assault victims need and the justice that they deserve,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Our message to these survivors is, we hear you, we respect you, and we care about what happens to you. With the steps we are announcing today, we are rededicating ourselves as members of law enforcement and service providers to being as sensitive and as effective as we can be on your behalf.”
“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.”
“While the County Prosecutors of New Jersey, our offices, local law enforcement agencies and our SANE/SART Teams have always been especially aware of the challenges facing sexual assault victims and the need to have highly trained personnel assigned to these units, we welcome and support these updates,” said Sussex County Prosecutor Francis A. Koch, President of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey. “In fact, many of the new updates and protocols are the incorporation of procedures and services that many of the 21 County Prosecutor’s Offices already implement. These revisions are a way to ensure a rededication to the victims of sexual assault across the state and to standardized services from all of the providing agencies. We further concur that New Jersey has always been and with these updates will be the model for the nation in our efforts to address the needs of sexual assault victims and to hold those responsible for these crimes accountable. The County Prosecutors of New Jersey look forward to instilling and promoting these protocols to better serve our respective counties.”
“Now, more than ever, in this age of ‘Me too’ and ‘Times Up,’ we need law enforcement to be aware of and responsive to the fears and stigma survivors of sexual violence experience,” said Acting Director Anna D. Martinez of the Department of Children and Families’ Division on Women. “These new protocols are survivor-centered, empowering people to access the services they want and need to heal from their trauma.”
“The new Standards are the conclusion of a lengthy collaboration in which each discipline involved – the Forensic Nursing Community, Law Enforcement, Prosecutors’ Offices, and Advocates – made the victim of sexual assault their primary focus,” said Lynne Rybicki, SART and FNE Coordinator for the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office. “During our numerous meetings, each word of the Standards was reviewed, dissected and updated by ideas, suggestions and best practices from each of the agencies represented in this respectful and collaborative process. We are all proud of the final product.”
“As a member of the multidisciplinary committee charged with revising the Attorney General Standards, we collaborated to update the Standards to reflect a victim-centered, evidence-based practice for all disciplines,” said Eileen Caraker, SART and FNE Coordinator for the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office. “As a representative of the 21 Sexual Assault Response Teams/Forensic Nurse Coordinators, our focus is to provide compassionate, comprehensive, evidence-based services to all sexual assault victims. This provides the opportunity for all patients to make informed decisions about their care, which may include medical forensic examination, advocacy and law enforcement.”
Attorney General Directive 2018-5 takes the following actions, among others, on behalf of sexual assault victims:
The Attorney General Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault, Third Edition, focus on delivering services to victims in a timely and non-judgmental manner. This victim-centered approach includes:
The specific enhancements and updates from prior editions of the standards include the following, among others:
Updated and Improved Practices
The Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police have been extremely proactive in training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, advocates, and forensic nurses in the area of sexual assault investigations and prosecutions. All police officers in New Jersey are required to take blocks of sexual assault training as part of their basic training. However, DCJ and the State Police have developed extensive supplemental training. In 2019 all officers in the state will be required to take the course Police Response: Sexual Assault Investigations, which will be offered through the Attorney General’s online training platform, the CLEAR Institute. This three-hour course was created by the DCJ Prosecutors Supervision & Training Bureau in collaboration with subject-matter experts to meet a legislative mandate. Since 2015, DCJ has held an annual two-day Domestic Violence/Sex Assault Symposium attended by up to 200 prosecutors, advocates, forensic nurses, and detectives. In June 2018 the State Police Victim Services Unit offered a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Violence Training that was attended by approximately 300 prosecutors, officers, FNE/SAFE coordinators, advocates, and court personnel. In addition, as part of advanced training in the NJSP Domestic and Sexual Violence Series, the State Police have created and offer seven additional specialized courses.
For more information on New Jersey’s efforts to support sexual assault victims, visit: nj.gov/oag/end-sexual-assault
Attorney General Grewal thanks the following agencies and organizations that were members of the Core Working Group that guided development of the Standards and Directive 2018-5:
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