Is Travis County Doing Enough for Rape Survivors?
SARRT study says not so
Every aspect of Austin and Travis County's sexual assault response system is under-resourced, according to a communitywide needs assessment released this month by the region's Sexual Assault Response and Resource Team. The 74-page report, compiling data sources and interviews with 24 survivors and 51 professionals in law enforcement, advocacy, social work, education, and health care, reveals that two-thirds of those working with assault survivors feel they don't have the time needed to "adequately address" their workload, and 94% believe the law does not fully address the crime of sexual assault. Unsurprisingly, immigrants and undocumented survivors were found to be the most underserved group, while access to counseling remains survivors' biggest unmet need.
The report includes a long list of recommendations. Stakeholders across the spectrum of services are advised to pursue increased funding and staffing for related programs, and to explore cross-training between agencies. The SARRT urges criminal justice agencies to invest in translation services and better record-keeping for criminal case outcomes. State-level advocates should consider policies that could extend or eliminate certain statutes of limitations, and update definitions within those statutes.
Though the report contains important data, it also makes clear its limitations. The SARRT could only evaluate reported rapes; in Texas, only 9% of survivors report the crime. The limited data makes it difficult to address the full scope of needs at both local and state levels, and for policymakers to fully comprehend how sorely resources are needed.