SVJI’s Rural Technical Assistance Project brings people, knowledge, and resources together to develop real solutions for rural communities addressing sexual violence. The collaborative approach we take means tools, trainings, and conferences designed for rural spaces and tailored assistance to meet your community’s specific needs. 

Our Rural Realities blog is a space to reflect, connect, and share about the work of coordinated sexual assault responses with others doing similar work across the United States. Please contact Johnanna Ganz ( with any rural related needs or questions.

Please share your thoughts and responses to blog posts via the comment function. Any comments that are deemed inappropriate (e.g. derogatory or inflammatory) will be deleted. 

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  • July 19, 2017 8:12 AM | Anonymous

    When I’m working with teams or new team coordinators, I always recommend that everyone watches Dr. Rebecca Campbell’s webinar on the neurobiology of trauma. She makes the concepts really easy to understand and applicable to every part of our work. Dr. Campbell’s approach and information has helped so many of the teams with whom I have worked. I continue to recommend this one. The best part? It is everyone’s favorite “F” word: FREE! 

    Do you have other resources to help others understand trauma’s effects or resources that help teams incorporate trauma informed approaches into their sexual violence response? Leave them in the comments! 

  • July 12, 2017 9:37 AM | Anonymous

    Sexual Assault Response Teams across the U.S. and the territories are becoming more and more focused on the concept of being trauma informed in their work—meaning that you understand the neurobiology of trauma and work to minimize any triggers or re-traumatization. This is a much needed shift in our fields of work, because trauma causes a lot of changes in the functioning of the brain and body. Sexual violence is a heinous and acute form of trauma; thus, it is important that the SART find ways to introduce and incorporate trauma informed approaches into their work.

    For those who do not have a clear definition on trauma informed, there can be some confusion about trauma informed and trauma specific work. Here’s a handy chart that SVJI developed after conducting a national inquiry to get some clarity about what trauma informed means in our work:

    There is general agreement that trauma informed is a set of guiding principles that influence how we interact with the folks who have experienced trauma—this doesn’t describe precise actions to take, but rather gives ideas and guidelines on how to best support folks. Trauma specific is about exact steps to take to address trauma—these are actionable steps, often implemented by trained service providers.

    When thinking about your SART and the member agencies represented, it is essential to ask yourselves about how you can use basic guidelines and principles that ensure you understand and respond to the effects of trauma. These principles fundamentally work to avoid re-traumatization for the victim/survivor. What are the areas of your sexual assault response that might cause re-traumatization? What steps can the member agencies take to change those areas of improvement?

    Have you been working on implementing trauma informed practices in your team and communities? Do you have questions about what trauma informed might look like for your work? Leave questions and ideas in the comments! 

  • July 05, 2017 8:59 AM | Anonymous

    Working in and around sexual violence, we are bound to run into the phrase trauma informed somewhere. As a technical assistance provider to Sexual Assault Response Teams, I frequently get asked about trauma informed training, and I hear team members talk about trauma informed often.

    To start off this month, I want to ask you to weigh-in: what does trauma informed mean in your roles as SART members or leaders? Please offer some insights, concrete suggestions, or questions in the comments below! 

  • June 28, 2017 8:36 AM | Anonymous

    I want to talk about an incredibly important issue that is challenging to discuss on our SARTs, in our communities, and in our work: oppression. This becomes multiplied when working in small and seemingly homogeneous places. How many times have you heard someone say something like, “We are all the same here.” Or “We don’t have people like that here.” Or “We give everyone the same services/we serve everyone.” I’ve heard it. I’ve said it. Those kinds of statements—when talking about underserved and marginalized communities—do a lot of damage and prevent us from growing. None of us are excluded from needing growth in this area, and it is okay to need growth and support in creating justice for all victim/survivors.

    Let’s choose a growth mindset.

    I’m not an expert in dismantling oppression. I make mistakes regularly. I do my very best and am continuing to learn all of the time. I’ve done harm—and it didn’t matter that it was unintentional or accidental. We all need to take ownership and look for facts. This is where I want you to use the growth mindset—we aren’t there, yet. I’m not there, yet. Our communities aren’t there, yet. Our services aren’t there, yet. But, we are all in this together, and we can be working together to respond to all the victim/survivors in our communities.

    Here are some ways to start finding out the realities of our communities and neighbors so we can start providing services that really do seek justice for all victim/survivors and grow in our SART work. Some of these were inspired by the recent White Ally call with RSP. Others are suggestions and ideas from some internet search skills and practice wisdom.

    • Check your county’s demographics and talk to other service providers
      • Get solid statistics and facts about the realities of your community
    • Check your service demographics
      • How do they compare to the county demos?
    • Make a plan for outreach if there are gaps
      • With what organizations will you partner in order to better serve folks?
      • How will you change your service delivery models to meet all needs?
      • How will you train staff to better meet un-met needs and appropriately serve folks?
    • What concrete things can you do or say to address oppression and intersectionality in your daily work?
      • How can you encourage others with privilege to be reflective and active allies?
    • How can you support your fellow SARTners in making improvements and growing together?

    There are so many ways we can approach these necessary changes through a growth mindset. Keep doing good work and push for more good and more justice for all. Please share any resources you have in the comments!

  • June 21, 2017 8:06 AM | Anonymous

    As we are discussing growth mindset and making changes in our approaches, Praxis International is an excellent resource for rural grantees! Praxis helps those doing work in the field to rethink strategies and find new ways of approaching our responses to violence that create sustainable change. They host the Advocacy Learning Center dedicated to advancing practices and incorporating new directions in providing advocacy services. They also offer a variety of resources, toolkits, and materials for expanding our efforts to reform institutions on behalf of all victims and survivors in our communities through the use of Institutional Analysis.

    Have other resources? Share them in the comments!

  • June 14, 2017 8:11 AM | Anonymous

    The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is capable of magical things, when SARTners are all working together to coordinate better responses. I was recently out in West Virginia at their Annual Symposium. While there, I heard questions from SART members that I hear often from all over the country; questions that I struggled with as a team leader: what do I do when other team members believe that showing up to a monthly meeting is the primary purpose?

    It’s a good question. It’s a hard question. It is also a really important question that gets to the heart of the purpose of the SART. This is where weaving the core principle of mutual growth and improvement of all SARTners is essential.

    There are some ways to accomplish this task when you are working to build or working to re-engage team members. Here are some ideas:

    • Incorporate growth and change into your communications. One of the best pieces of advice I got as a new coordinator from an amazing and seasoned team leader was: use the pre and post meeting emails to (1) thank people for their engagement and (2) remind them why they are showing up. Every email I sent to my team after that focused on how I could see them working through complex issues. I would note the changes we were making together. It became the heart of all my communication; team members felt more invested in the team and attendance improved vastly. They began to see they were doing something, not just meeting for the sake of meeting.
    • Write it into your Memorandums of Understanding. Most teams have some sort of written documents that indicates their commitment to the team. MOU’s are a great place to indicate that your goal as a team is to shake up that status quo and make necessary changes to relationships, practices, and processes. You can show you mean to do hard and good work in that agreement. It will help to frame the work of the SART for all players involved.
    • Talk about mutual growth and improvement. SARTs need to look closely at every agency’s policies and practices to find places where they can make realistic and sustainable improvements. Most of the time, it’s easier to point fingers than it is to do the hard work together. Reminding people that you are all in it together can help ease that stress. It bonds you rather than divides you. Whenever you have the opportunity, remind folks of the greater mission of the team.
    • Acknowledge the difficulty; continue to celebrate. There is such value in speaking the truth. You all know it’s hard to change agency practices and policies and historically challenging relationships or problems. However, don’t get stuck admiring the problems. Continue to encourage growth in the work. Celebrate the small victories—in our lines of work, we don’t have many opportunities to celebrate. Addressing realities and celebrating wins can make the work seem more do-able to team members.

    These are just some of the ways that you can begin to build up a framework of growth and improvement to help focus and encourage your team. I’m certain that many of you also have ideas on how to center your team on doing complex work to change the response of systems practitioners. Please share your ideas—big and small—in the comments! 

  • June 07, 2017 9:02 AM | Anonymous

    There’s been so much written on the ways in which failure can be a positive—sometimes, it seems like delusion and other times, it is comforting. I don’t always feel that positive vibe, and failure has felt ugly and disheartening. However, there’s this researcher, Carol Dweck, who researches how we understand failure and skill building. She has a 10 minute Ted Talk about what happens when we start from the premise of “not yet.” While the video is aimed at talking about school-based learning, we can use the concepts in every part of our work as Sexual Assault Response Team members and leaders. I remember watching this video and thinking, “Wow! That changes how I see what’s happening on my team. We aren’t failing at anything, we just haven’t gotten there, yet.” It made me a more resilient and patient team leader.

    So, give the video a watch and weigh in with your thoughts about how this concept helps, hinders, or changes your work on SARTs! 

  • June 01, 2017 9:23 AM | Anonymous

    Greetings SART friends! I hope you are all doing well. With the National Institute at the beginning of this month, I'm a little behind on blog writing--my apologies. 

    Fear not! The blog is back next week. Until then, keep doing awesome work to improve the lives of victim/survivors in your communities. 


  • May 18, 2017 9:19 AM | Anonymous
    Over the last several years, SVJI has worked to learn best practices and find better ways to complete case file reviews as a strategy for the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). After many rounds of testing and revision, we are proud to make the official Case File Review Toolkit available! The process is broken down into 9 modules. Designed to be easy to use and understand, each module is only a few pages in length with clear guidance on steps you and your team will need to take. Additionally, you can find more resources and tools embedded throughout the entire toolkit. 

    You can find it here or by going to 

    If you have questions, feedback to improve the toolkit, or need training/technical assistance with your team around Case File Review, please reach out to SVJI staff. We are happy to help! 

    If you have other great resources regarding the process of case file review, leave them in the comments! 

  • May 04, 2017 8:03 AM | Anonymous

    Image result for tell me what you want meme

    Normally, we'd start the month off with a theme. This month I wanted to do things a little differently with the help of our friends, The Spice Girls!

    As coordinated groups of systems providers and the folks who are dedicated to changing how professionals respond to sexual violence victim/survivors, what are some Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) topics or issues that you would like addressed in upcoming blogs? 

    This blog is a dedicated space and resource for SARTs; I want to be sure that the content meets the realities of your work. So, leave your teaming topic ideas in the comments! 

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This project is supported by Grant Number 2015-TA-AX-K014 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this content are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. 

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