The Tarrant County Commissioners Court unanimously approved the establishment of the Tarrant County Sexual Assault Response Team at its Dec. 13 meeting.

According to a Commissioners Court communication, the purpose of a SART is to bring agencies together that serve sexual assault victims, including law enforcement, victim advocates and more. The objective is for the agencies to work together to “formalize interagency guidelines that prioritize victims’ needs, hold offenders accountable and promote public safety,” per the communication.

The formal establishment of the coalition was done so that Tarrant County would be in compliance with Senate Bill 476, passed earlier this year, which mandates all Texas counties form an adult sexual abuse response team.

But according to Kim D’Avignon, the chief prosecutor on the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office’s adult sexual response team, the county has had a SART since 1989.

“I’m here to tell you some of those meetings have been tense, but we have continued to work together and build interagency bonds and worked diligently as a group,” D’Avignon told commissioners. “Out of these meetings, many changes have come countywide to help serve victims and to hold rapists accountable.”

The core members of the Tarrant County SART, as established by the court’s action, include Deborah Caddy of The Women’s Center of Tarrant County; Sgt. John Davis of the Fort Worth Police Department; Sgt. Tim Pinkney of the Arlington Police Department; Melinda Clark of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office; Connie Housley of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program through JPS Health; Ellen Goodman of My Health My Resources of Tarrant County; and D’Avignon, representing the district attorney’s office.

The unanimous approval came after a handful of questions from Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley and Commissioner Devan Allen about how the core members were chosen. D’Avignon said that the core members as outlined for the court’s approval were selected to meet the specific language of the new legislation and that Tarrant County’s SART meetings regularly have participation from other stakeholders and agencies.

For example, D’Avignon said most of the colleges in the county are represented at meetings, typically sending their Title IX representatives, and some meetings have as many as 40 people.

“It is open to agencies that do the work,” D’Avignon said.