Sexual assault crimes have a tremendous impact on victims and their families. The emotional and psychological injuries sustained are often as, if not more, serious than the physical injuries, potentially affecting every aspect of a victim’s life long after the physical injuries have healed.
New Jersey recognizes the importance of developing a model for providing services that treats sexual assault victims with respect, sensitivity, and understanding, so as to best promote healing for the victim and improve the identification and collection of evidence in all cases of sexual assault. Dignified and compassionate services are essential elements when creating an environment in which victims feel safe asking for support; and well-organized services ensure that these critical support systems are easily accessible by all victims.
The Attorney General Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault (Standards) were developed to implement a set of protocols that prioritize the needs and concerns of sexual assault victims to ensure services are delivered in a timely and non-judgmental manner. This victim-centered approach includes:
- ensuring the victim’s safety is the top priority;
- respecting the integrity, choices, and autonomy of each victim;
- protecting the victim’s privacy and confidential information;
- identifying and responding to the obstacles some victims may face when seeking help; and
- recognizing the importance of victim feedback in improving responses to sexual assault.
These Standards serve as a foundation for establishing county policies and procedures that give precedence to the well-being of the victim, while also being mindful of the specific needs of the county’s population and its local resources.
However, because of the unique nature of each sexual assault incident, situations may arise that will require the use of discretion in developing a tailored response that appropriately addresses both the individual victim’s needs and the public safety concerns.
Likewise, because New Jersey is home to many diverse ethnic and cultural populations, issues unique to these diverse populations may impact a sexual assault victim’s ability to effectively access the services provided for in these Standards. Therefore, it is important that local agencies recognize these barriers and afford necessary accommodations to address them.