Prosecutor Sam Arp Announces New Sexual Assault Response Team

(BEDFORD) – Lawrence County Prosecutor Sam Arp recently announced his office is working with local leaders to develop a Sexual Assault Response Team, also referred to as a SART. A Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is a multidisciplinary partnership that provides a consistent, coordinated, competent, and compassionate response to sexual assault victims in a way that makes their needs a priority, promotes public safety, and holds offenders accountable.

Lawrence County Prosecutor Sam Arp

In 2007, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law requiring all counties to develop their own SART or participate in a regional SART.

Prosecutor Arp discussed the importance of Lawrence County having their own response team, “By having our own Team, we can be sure our local victims are receiving the best care and compassion throughout the process that we possibly can. In addition, our local effort can assist in the successful prosecution of these cases due to the strong evidence collection protocols it includes.”

Per the law, each local team must develop a plan that establishes a protocol for victim response and treatment, including the collection, preservation, secure storage and destruction of the evidence collected from medical forensic examinations.

In addition, the plan must include a plan for adult victims who, for whatever reason, choose not to report the crime to law enforcement, such as anonymous or “Jane Doe” cases, and must include a method of maintaining the confidentiality of the nonreporting victim. The Team must also develop a statement of victim rights and victim notification forms.

“The Prosecutor is charged with leading the effort to implement the law and our office is eager to get this program up and running to begin helping victims by the early months of next year,” said Arp. “We also know victims who have access to a SART program are more likely to report these crimes and follow through with prosecution.”

Sheriff Mike Branham

Arp has pulled together several key stakeholders to be part of the Team and assist in the development of protocols, including Sheriff Mike Branham, the Indiana State Police, and both the Bedford and Mitchell Police Departments as well as the local Department of Child Services, Forensic Interviewers, and Victim Advocates.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Debby Potter

“One key stakeholder that deserves special recognition is Debby Potter, our Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner,” Arp continued, “Debby has been the true leader in the development of this local team. She has been instrumental in getting all the pieces pulled together for a successful launch of the program next year.”

Other members of the medical community are assisting with the effort, including representatives from St. Vincent Hospital and IU Health.

Allison Chopra, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, has also been working closely with Arp and Potter on the implementation of the Lawrence County SART. Both she and Potter recently attended a meeting of the Monroe County SART to learn more and will be coordinating an upcoming training by the Statewide Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator and the Indiana Coalition to End Sexual Assault.

Deputy Prosecutor Allison Chopra.

Arp was equally grateful for Chopra’s leadership and assistance, “I am glad Allison will be assisting with sexual assault prosecutions within our office. She is a passionate advocate for victims and will be a tremendous asset for them in the courtroom,” said Arp.

For more information about the Lawrence County SART, you can contact the Prosecutor’s Office at 812-275-4439 or via email at sarp@lawrencecounty.in.gov.

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