DeSantis signs law updating sexual assault response procedures across Florida

Florida

(WESH 2 News)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A new bill signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis updates the state’s sexual assault response team procedures and membership requirements, and provides further support for rape crisis centers.

HB 1189 sets new requirements and support standards for rape response teams in Florida.

Going forward, the health departments of each Florida county, or their chosen designee, must participate in the sexual assault response team coordinated by a rape crisis center that serves the county or region, if one exists.

If a SART does not exist in a specific county, the law mandates that the certified rape crisis center serving the area may coordinate with community partners to create a county-specific or regional SART.

The new law also sets requirements for membership in a SART, including:

  • Must meet at least quarterly to coordinate a multidisciplinary response to sexual assault
  • Develop written protocols to govern a teams response to sexual assault
  • Promote and support use of qualified sexual assault forensic examiners who have completed a minimum of 40 hours of specialized training for provision of trauma-informed medical care and collection of evidence in sexual assault cases
  • Certified rape crisis centers serving a county where a SART is established, in collaboration with community partners, shall determine membership of each SART
  • If a SART serves multiple counties, membership must include persons from each county
  • The Florida council Against Sexual Violence shall provide technical assistance related to the development of SARTs

The development of written protocols for a response team must include:

  • Roles and responsibilities for each team member
  • Procedures following the report of a sexual assault, to include Law enforcement and immediate crisis response, health care treatment for a sexual assault victim, follow-up services must be provided to a sexual assault victim
  • Procedures must be in place for the preservation, secure storage, and destruction of evidence from a sexual assault evidence kit, including how long it’s stored, where it’s stored, and establish a chain of custody

SART membership must include:

  • The director of the certified rape crisis center
  • A representative from the county department of health
  • The state attorney
  • The chief of police for a department in the county
  • The county sheriff
  • A forensic sexual assault nurse examiner
  • A representative from a hospital emergency department in the county or region

The law mandates that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Criminal justice Standards and Training Commission, along with the Florida council Against Sexual Violence, create minimum standards for basic skills and continued education for law enforcement officers, including a culturally responsive, trauma-informed response to sexual assault.

Basically, FDLE will be required by law to have minimum standards for training officers to handle sexual assault investigations and victims, with sensitivity to the trauma of a sexual assault victim. Those standards must be set by July 1, 2022.

Also by July 1, 2022, each basic skills course to be certified as a law enforcement officer in Florida must include culturally responsive, trauma-informed training for how to interview victims of sexual assault and conduct investigations of sexual assault incidents.

Officers who fail to complete the required training under these new standards must be placed on inactive status until the agency they work for notifies the Commission that they have completed the training course.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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