Participating in the work of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), especially if it’s long-term, can result in representatives struggling to attend meetings regularly. It is normal and expected for an agency to sometimes not have representation at the meeting—things come up, turnover happens, everybody is busy, the meetings are not productive, etc. There is an endless list of reasons why someone may miss a meeting here and there. This post is not about those members. This post is about how to manage the challenges of members who vanish: those that do not attend regular meetings but remain on the roster as an agency representative. Teams and coordinators have many options to handle missing members. These are listed in ascending order of firmness/assertiveness.
- You can just accept that folks aren’t coming and do your best to keep them in the loop. This is not a great option, but it is an option.
- Reach out to that member and ask how you/the team/their home agency can support their attendance. Maybe it’s the meeting time or location. Maybe they find that the meeting isn’t a good use of time, because the team meets just to meet rather than accomplishing work. Explore what’s happening that prevents them from coming and adjust what you are able to adjust to support them.
- You can ask to meet in-person with the team member and their leadership to explore what is preventing them from attending. This is a good option to find out if the leadership is aware their people are not attending SART meetings or if the agency needs something to be able to send their folks to the meeting.
- Bring the issue of missing members to the team and ask what action they would like to see. This approach should be framed around the functioning of the team to get good work done. Discuss and create an attendance policy with the team. Be sure to outline a course of action for what happens when folks/agencies stop attending meetings.
- You and your leadership can invite the missing members and their leadership to meet at your offices to discuss the issues with attendance. Address the importance of having the agency’s voice represented on the team as well as team function.
- You can go back to the MOU and review the requirements—if folks aren’t meeting them, you’d provide them that information and let them know that you think it best that they don’t participate on the team at this time. Frame it around understanding and doing what is best for the functioning of the team. Offer them the opportunity to return if/when they and their agency are able to be regularly participating members of the team. You’d need to address this action with the team to keep them in the loop of how you are coordinating the team. Only choose this option if you have exhausted all other options.
Missing members can be really challenging for a SART. When we lose team members, we lose valuable information about our response. However, the realities of this work is that, sometimes, members just stop showing up. As a coordinator, it’s on us to find out why and if we can help.