Smith County agencies develop protocols for better handling sexual assault cases
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Smith County agencies have spent the last year working together to develop protocols for handling sexual assault cases in the county. This comes after Senate Bill 476 was passed and requires all Texas counties to have a team dedicated to sexual assault response.
Angela Faulkner is the Smith County Assistant Criminal District Attorney and presiding officer of the Smith County Sexual Assault Response Team. A big goal of the team is to prevent miscommunication among agencies and gaps from when a report comes in and as it moves along the process.
“What we don’t want to have happen is somebody who’s been through this traumatic event and they are mistreated or re-victimized by the process,” Faulkner said. “While we can’t prevent that in every single case, this is going to help make sure that we aren’t doing that as much as possible.”
Faulkner said the last year has consisted of a lot of administrative work.
“All of our agencies have been very good to work with to get this going. We hope to one day kind of be like what the Children’s Advocacy Center does and really make sure we’re working together to get these cases prosecuted,” Faulkner said. “Not only that, like I said yesterday in commissioners court, we want to make sure that everybody who is a survivor of sexual assault knows what resources out there. Knows about getting a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) exam, and knows about the counseling that is available here.”
The team is made up of law enforcement agencies, the district attorney’s office, nurses, and advocates.
Going into 2023, the team is hoping to work with more law enforcement agencies in the county. The last year has been with Tyler PD and the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. Faulkner said they also plan to start gathering data from the Title IX Office at UT Tyler.
“The statute also requires for us to monitor those cases every two years, so it was just set up in 2021, so in 2022 we’re going to have the statistics on the past two years,” she said. “How many cases have been reported to law enforcement, how many were received by the DA’s office, and how many have gone to trial and what the outcome was.”
The team’s first round of data will be due to the state in December 2023. Right now they are still seeing some backlog from COVID-19, according to Faulkner.
“We are seeing that there are not as many people that are wanting to move forward. They’re making that initial report to law enforcement and then something will happen and they won’t want to proceed from there, or we lose contact with them,” she said. “So that is kind of frustrating to see. Going through the whole criminal process, it is a long process and we understand that that is very frustrating to victims, but if we don’t prosecute them for this crime, we don’t want to see somebody else get victimized.”
A big goal of the team is to prevent miscommunication among agencies and gaps in the process.
Copyright 2022 KLTV. All rights reserved.