Dashe & Thomson collaborated with the Sexual Violence Justice Institute (SVJI), part of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA), to develop a resource to facilitate discussion among the multi-disciplinary members of community Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART). SARTs comprise members from law enforcement, prosecution, medical examiners, and advocacy, each with different roles, objectives and perspectives regarding how to address sexual assault.
Each of these groups have differing legal requirements and principles guiding the way they perform their jobs, and the confidentiality standards they must maintain. The potential for conflict among team members is high due to a lack of understanding of their tasks and requirements.
It’s natural for there to be underlying tension between people working in different disciplines with different roles and purposes, for example, victim advocates and police officers or police officers and sexual assault nurse examiners. Coming from different backgrounds and speaking different “languages” increases the likelihood that communications are misinterpreted or appear insensitive, especially given the emotionally-charged environment of the very important work these people do. Team members sometimes feels that the need to assess the situation and discover what happened is in direct conflict with the victim’s need to have confidentiality and to be believed.
To assist with SART training, Dashe developed a series of superhero-themed cards representing each discipline, providing summaries of their roles, responsibilities, and limitations. The cards were designed to acknowledge that each team member is a “superhero,” and, like superheroes, they each have unique abilities and potential weaknesses. The cards described each role’s persona in terms of their role and responsibilities on the team as well as “nice-to-knows” and challenges that persona might encounter in their role.
For example, the advocate and police officer cards explained the types of information these roles might not be legally allowed to share, pointing out this is a responsibility and not simply their quirky nature. The ultimate goal of these cards was to provide valuable insights into each role to help smooth out any points of friction during their SART work.
The superhero theme helped emphasize the team’s unified pursuit of positive outcomes for survivors of sexual assault. The cards sparked conversation among team members and increased understanding about what and how they are able to contribute to the work of the team without breaking their confidentiality rules.
Leaders responsible for facilitating these discussions found the superhero theme fun and engaging. They were confident that the cards would work well, creating a positive response and successfully sparking conversations that would promote more unity and understanding among team members.
Ultimately, victims of sexual violence are the ones benefiting from the Superhero cards, and the blended learning program as a whole. Those who are impacted by sexual violence will know who does ‘what’ when disclosing. Victims will be more likely to continue to seek justice and healing options.