Delmar, NY--The NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs Executive Director Denise M. Miranda announces the formation of the Sexual Abuse Response Team, a specialized team of investigators who will handle all allegations of sexual abuse.

The creation of this highly skilled team comes at a critical time.  A recent NPR series on the issue of sex abuse amongst people with special needs labeled it an “epidemic” across the country, citing Department of Justice numbers showing this vulnerable population is seven times more likely to be abused than the national average.  The Justice Center recognizes the unique challenges cases involving sex abuse can present, especially when involving a person with special needs.  The Sex Abuse Response Team (SART) will be comprised of current Justice Center investigators from both criminal and non-criminal backgrounds who will undergo additional intensive training to hone their skills in investigating these complex cases. 

“New York State was the first in the nation to recognize the need for an agency dedicated solely to protecting the rights of people with special needs.  Now we will set another precedent by dedicating a specially-trained group to investigate these very serious cases and hold those responsible accountable” said Executive Director Denise Miranda.

“Cases involving the sexual abuse of adults and children can be difficult to investigate and prosecute, often more so when the victim presents with special needs or a disability. The addition of this newly formed investigative team at the Justice Center will allow for a focused effort on their mission and will help build better cases for prosecution. We applaud and support this addition to our partners in law enforcement,” commented Albany County District Attorney and District Attorneys Association of the State of New York President-elect David Soares. 

The team will develop a coordinated approach to sexual abuse, affording each victim access to needed services.  Besides investigators, team members will include a representative of the Justice Center’s Medical Review Board and a member of the agency’s Individual and Family Support Unit.

SART will also develop procedures and protocols to ensure the quality and integrity of the sexual abuse investigation and prosecution.  This will include a 24/7 notification process and the establishment of agreements and procedures with service providers to ensure access to emergency medical care for victims.  The Justice Center’s Special Prosecutor will have an enhanced role in all SART cases in order to pursue any potential criminal charges.  Finally, the Justice Center will focus efforts on education, outreach, and preventative measures to reduce the rate of sexual abuse, educate the workforce, and help victims come forward to pursue justice.

About the Justice Center

The Justice Center has authority under New York State law to investigate all reports of abuse and neglect, pursue administrative sanctions against staff found responsible for misconduct, and prosecute crimes committed by staff against vulnerable people receiving services or supports.  In every case in which potential criminal acts occurred, Justice Center investigators and prosecutors work closely with local law enforcement and district attorneys. The Justice Center notifies county District Attorneys of every case of abuse and neglect received in their jurisdiction. 

Most Justice Center investigators have experience working with special populations, and they receive specialized training on best practices for interacting with people with disabilities. Investigators use a victim-centered approach that seeks to minimize re-traumatization that can be associated with the investigative process.

The Justice Center’s statewide, toll-free hotline receives reports of allegations of suspected abuse, neglect and significant incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-855-373-2122 to make a report.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 21, 2018   Contact: Christine Buttigieg, Director of Public Information: (518) 949-5621 christine.buttigieg@justicecenter.ny.gov