Developing Your Agency's Cultural Competency Plan



Date of Publication
September, 2019

As managers of Community Sexual Assault Programs (CSAPs) you are aware of the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy accreditation standard (#AC1) that requires: “The agency ensures the cultural competency of its service delivery.”

This standard describes cultural competency as: “the ability of the organization to recognize and respect diverse cultural factors, and the effects of these factors on various communities’ need for and access to its services.”

Something unique to this standard is that compliance relies on the CSAP itself to identify the cultures they serve and then determine if their existing services are culturally relevant / humble. The challenge here lies in identification. How does an agency identify if they are culturally competent serving a specific cultural group if they don’t seem to see any members of that group in their programs?

Let us illustrate with an example. When evaluating whether your agency is culturally competent serving transgender survivors how would this be measured if your agency has never served a transgender person? Does the lack of transgender clients indicate that there are no transgender people within your service area?

We know that there are transgender people everywhere. Additionally, it is well documented that transgender individuals are at high risk of sexual violence victimization. In the most recent Transgender Survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality,1 nearly half (47%) of the respondents were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime and one in ten (10%) were sexually assaulted in the past year. Understanding the prevalence of victimization of transgender people can now inform your agency’s measure of cultural competency. If you are not serving any transgender clients, it is not because there are none, it is because something about your agency’s services must change to be culturally, transgender competent.

Let’s take another example. Immigrants are a population who are highly vulnerable to sexual victimization.2 In addition to experiencing the trauma of sexual violence, immigrant survivors also bear the burden of navigating support amidst the fears of family separation and/or deportation. Mistrust of authorities and systems frequently become a barrier to immigrants accessing critical SV services.

With this in mind CSAPs must ask themselves,

  • are our staff and volunteers trained and accurately informed about services that immigrants are legally entitled to?
  • Do our policies, language, and staff reflect the needs of immigrant survivors?
  • Are we doing everything we can to reach out to immigrant survivors?

These are just a few of the questions that a CSAP can utilize to develop a relevant and humble plan for serving immigrants with cultural competency. Immigrants and trans people (and trans immigrants) are only two of the cultural identities that contribute to a survivor’s service needs. As demonstrated in the above examples, meeting this accreditation standard often requires a CSAP to identify who is not being served. Once identified, further research into the needs of the group can begin to inform a “written plan that identifies cultural competency objectives and plans for achieving those objectives,” while also documenting progress.

Below are more tips from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center3 that support ensuring cultural competency in your CSAP service delivery:

  • Allocate fiscal resources to meet the unique needs and preferences of culturally and linguistically diverse populations;
  • Collaborate with and provide technical assistance to culturally specific organizations in your region;
  • Recruit, hire and retain people of diverse populations on your staff and board;
  • Partner with culturally specific programs to create and implement clearly written, consistently implemented, and effective policies that address multicultural populations. These must be meaningful partnerships that acknowledge organizational power and privilege and include respectful listening and the exchange of ideas;
  • Collect and analyze data that reflect the diversity in your service area;
  • Seek feedback from victims.

WCSAP is available to provide help to programs preparing for accreditation. If your agency needs support with a cultural competency plan or any other accreditation standard, please reach out to us. We are your advocates!

Resources on Other Websites


Notes and References

  1. James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality
  2. Michele Decker, Anita Raj, and Jay Silverman, 2007, “Sexual Violence Against Adolescent Girls: Influences of Immigration and Acculturation,” Violence Against Women 13(5): 498-507.
  3. SART Toolkit 6.12, "Immigrant Victims of Sexual Assault". Retrieved April 14, 2019, from