Soapbox

#MeToo is not enough. California must invest in stopping sexual assault

Gretchen Newsom, political director of IBEW 569, leads protesters at the state Capitol on May 21 calling for Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, to resign amid sexual harassment allegations.
Gretchen Newsom, political director of IBEW 569, leads protesters at the state Capitol on May 21 calling for Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, to resign amid sexual harassment allegations. Sacramento Bee file

Despite our national reckoning with sexual harassment and assault through the #MeToo movement, California continues to lag in its commitment to fight gender-based violence.

The state’s general fund includes a mere $45,000 for sexual assault services -- 5 cents for each of the nearly one million survivors of sexual assault in California. This stands in stark contrast to the $20.6 million for domestic violence shelters and services.

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Sandra Henriquez

As a matter of public safety and of public health, California must have the tools to prevent sexual violence and assist survivors. State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, and Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, are working alongside advocates to lead the push for $50 million more.

Many policymakers erroneously conflate sexual harassment and abuse with domestic violence. Each require tailored approaches. It is not uncommon for someone to be abused as a child, sexually assaulted as a teen or college student, be harassed in the workplace and be abused within an intimate relationship, compounding the effects of sexual violence over a lifetime.

Opinion

The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence understands how sexual violence and domestic violence are linked, yet distinct. It has partnered with the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault to support the funding proposal.

Money to address domestic violence is extremely important, and must be increased. But it’s equally important to correct the funding disparity for sexual violence.

An estimated 948,000 California residents were sexually assaulted in 2012, costing the state $140 billion. Discussing the economic impact of sexual harassment and violence appears unseemly, but we only need look at social media, listen to conversations with loved ones and coworkers and read disclosures in the news and courtrooms. Statewide, every prevented rape of an adult could save $163,800 and every prevented sexual assault of a child could save $227,700.

Over the past five decades, advocates, caregivers, medical professionals and law enforcement have responded to sexual violence with crisis intervention services. But this year has been a special moment as Californians and an engaged nation have increased efforts to improve our workplaces, our campuses, our homes and our lives so no one has to be a victim of this kind of abuse.

We are moving toward a world where survivors can come forward because they expect to be believed. It’s now time for the Legislature to recognize that #TimesUp and make a real investment in protecting Californians against sexual and domestic violence.

Sandra Henriquez is CEO of the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and can be contacted at sandra@calcasa.org. Kathy Moore is executive director of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and can be contacted at Kathy@cpedv.org.
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