Prevention Corner: the Importance of VAWA in Sexual Assault Prevention

Aug 21st, 1970

By Stephanie Romano, Training and Prevention Assistant The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized three times, most recently in March of this year.  VAWA enables Congress to establish a budget for services for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, as well as to support the critical component of prevention.  In addition to holding offenders accountable and providing direct services to survivors, prevention programs are integral because they focus on the eradication of violence. VAWA’s reauthorization in 2013 was significant in that opportunities for prevention work were enhanced and extended for a wider range of underserved populations, including Indian tribes, the elderly, LGBT, college students, immigrants, and trafficking victims. This means prevention programs can expand and strengthen in areas of programming, educational services for specific populations, training of health care practitioners, and mobilization of Sexual Assault Response Teams and task forces.  This also means that areas that previously had little or no prevention programming, such as rural and low-income areas, will now have the chance to develop and offer programs specific to their communities. The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, like many non-profit organizations, relies on federal funding from VAWA to sustain essential prevention practices and services for survivors of violence.  MCASA provides training, programming, and support for prevention in three capacities:
  •  Primary Prevention: Education, outreach, and training to help prevent initial perpetration or victimization. MCASA’s “Speak Up. Speak Out.” college bystander intervention campaign and “Power of One” campaign for the general public are both primary prevention approaches to empower people to try to stop sexual violence before it begins.
  • Secondary Prevention: An immediate response after the sexual violence has occurred. MCASA’s coalition of 17 Rape Crisis Centers across the state provide this through their hotline work, court and hospital accompaniment, and crisis counseling.
  • Tertiary Prevention: Long-term responses after sexual violence have occurred to deal with the lasting consequences of violence and sex offender treatment interventions.
According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), “sequestration would result in an estimated 416,594 fewer victims receiving life-saving and cost-effective services.”  Moreover, a threat to funds for prevention services means communities and campuses would be restricted in the level of education and programs provided.  Even one victim left unassisted is one too many; hundreds of thousands is unacceptable.  It is crucial to repeal sequestration in order to provide the necessary services for rape victims and help prevent crimes of sexual assault.   This article appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Frontline.

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