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Eastern Plains Sexual Assault Response Team (EPSART)

  • Need: To support victims after sexual assault and to collaborate and streamline processes for victim-centered care.
  • Intervention: The EPSART holds monthly team meetings, case review, and opportunities for team training.
  • Results: Enhanced victim and public safety by facilitating investigations and successful prosecutions.


The Eastern Plains Sexual Assault Response Team (EPSART) was created in 2008 by the South Dakota State University (SDSU) Police Department and the Brookings Domestic Abuse Shelter. The team serves rural Brookings and Kingsbury counties and includes:

  • Brookings County State's Attorney and other prosecutors
  • Brookings Domestic Abuse Shelter victim advocates
  • Brookings Health System and other healthcare providers
  • Crime Victim Services
  • Law enforcement and criminal investigators
  • SDSU Counseling Services

Services offered

  • Monthly team meetings: collaborative communication, discussions of concerns, and problem-solving
  • Team training opportunities
  • Case review: process improvement and data-gathering for research
EPSART group photo


A multidisciplinary, victim-centered response has been established for the community. The EPSART allows for collaborative communication, discussions of concerns, and problem-solving. The coordinated approach of facilitating investigations and successful prosecutions increases the likelihood that offenders are held accountable for their actions and further sexual assaults will be prevented.

Law enforcement and the State's Attorney office were able to provide significant input on the Brookings Health System's sexual assault kit storage policy. The forensic nurse examiner provided guidance to law enforcement on best practice specimens to collect for assailant exams. This collaboration served as a guide for law enforcement to know what items to request in a warrant.

The University of South Dakota, a children's advocacy center, and the South Dakota Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault secured a grant to hire a state Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) coordinator, as a central source of expert advice for the state.


Program coordinators named staff turnover and little time/financial support as significant barriers:

  • Vicarious trauma causes workers to burn out and leave this specialty.
  • Most programs do not have a formal call schedule, so it's difficult for staff to plan their lives around work, and they may feel guilty when they're unable to respond to a call.
  • There is no monetary incentive for nurses to be SANEs. There are no dedicated SANEs in the EPSART, so nurses with multiple job duties may see this role as additional workload.
  • In rural areas where case numbers are low, it can be difficult to stay competent in your skills.


Gain buy-in from agency leaders and administration, and hold team members accountable to attend monthly meetings.

One facility offers SANEs a monetary bonus for responding to a call as well as having a formal call schedule. This way, the program is well staffed, someone is always able to provide expert care, and SANEs feel valued for their expertise.

SART toolkit

Contact Information

Sandra Ruesch, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
Brookings Health System

Abuse and violence
Criminal justice system
Networking and collaboration

States served
South Dakota

Date added
December 5, 2017

Date updated or reviewed
December 10, 2019

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2019. Eastern Plains Sexual Assault Response Team (EPSART) [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 23 October 2021]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.