The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization by Congress this year. Since its enactment 17 years ago, VAWA has saved countless lives, protected families, given a voice to survivors and provided invaluable training to the criminal justice community. VAWA is both a symbol and actualization of what it means to create healing and justice for survivors and their communities.
VAWA has fostered coordinated responses to violence against women by bringing together the criminal justice system, social services agencies and private nonprofits that work with survivors. It is responsible for the creation of legal assistance programs for survivors and greater protections for immigrants experiencing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. If passed, the reauthorization will provide for enhanced criminal justice responses to sexual assault, greater prevention of domestic violence homicides and engagement of young people in stopping dating violence before it starts.
Please take action today to ensure that Congress reauthorizes VAWA. Write or call your senators and urge them to become co-sponsors of this vital piece of legislation. You can send the message we drafted or write a letter in your own words, expressing how critical VAWA is in the movement to end violence against women and girls. Calling More >
Joyful Heart has been selected as one of 25 charities to compete for the chance to earn $1 million from Chase Community Giving’s American Giving Awards. With such an extraordinary gift, we could make a big difference for survivors of sexual assault. There is one day left to help us make a difference of $1 million.
Every year, tens of thousands of individuals report a sexual assault to the police. After an assault, a survivor undergoes an invasive exam that lasts between four and six hours to collect DNA and forensic evidence, which then goes into a “rape kit.”
The federal government estimates that over 200,000 untested kits are currently sitting untouched in storage facilities nationwide. Each untested kit represents a missed opportunity for healing and justice for a survivor. Eliminating the backlog would send a powerful message to survivors that their cases matter and that the criminal justice system has not forgotten them.
Joyful Heart would use the $1 million award to continue and enhance its efforts to end the rape kit backlog in cities across the country. We plan to create replicable victim-centered best practices, which will foster trusting and open relationships between survivors and responders; to completely overhaul endthebacklog.org, the only site More >
In an op-ed published in the Boston Herald this week, Linda Fairstein responds to the “untrue and absurd” arguments of opponents of testing the backlog of rape kits in the United States. Fairstein is a best-selling novelist, the Vice-Chair of Joyful Heart’s Board of Directors and for more than 25 years, was the chief prosecutor for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit.
The fact that there are estimated to be almost a quarter of a million untested rape evidence collection kits collecting dust in police department warehouses across this country remains a national embarrassment. The movement to eliminate this backlog and process the evidence for DNA testing to identify violent offenders is gaining supporters, although opposed by naysayers who are ignorant of the facts of what sexual assault survivors achieve in the criminal justice system when they are backed by the powerfully effective tool of a DNA identification.
From 1976 until 2002, I was the prosecutor in charge of the country’s pioneering Sex Crimes Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and among the first lawyers to be introduced to the revolutionary science of genetic fingerprinting in 1986, three years before it was accepted by our courts. When the first data banks became operational More >
On May 17, I had the opportunity to work and attend Joyful Heart’s 4th Annual Gala at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. As Joyful Heart’s Advocacy & Communications Associate, I was part of a team that informed attendees of one of Joyful Heart’s biggest advocacy efforts–ending the rape kit backlog–and helped them take action to do so. The night epitomized what’s so incredible about Joyful Heart’s supporters and why this work is so important.
As most events do, ours had a theme, How Will You Join? (The Joyful Revolution). In 2009, at Joyful Heart’s second Gala, the Joyful Revolution was born: a movement of our collective vision for a community that collaboratively ends the cycle of violence and abuse by turning toward the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. At last year’s Gala, the Revolution Continued as we honored the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which changed the way violent crimes against women are prosecuted and prevented.
At this year’s Gala, we asked the question How Will You Join? And it was answered in amazing ways throughout the night.
We started off with a letter writing campaign to members of More >
Many of us are aware of the personal costs of sexual violence. We may have seen friends, family members, neighbors and colleagues navigate their lives in the in the aftermath of sexual assault or abuse. Maybe a roommate had a lock put on her bedroom door in order to manage her fear, a co-worker may have become distracted at work and seemed depressed after a “bad date” or someone in our own family may stop attending family events to avoid his perpetrator. People that experience this type of abuse suffer in varied and disparate ways, but there is a commonality in that harm is done and the personal costs are steep.
A new document produced and distributed by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence outlines some other costs of sexual violence. The document addresses the economic, health care and systems costs associated with sexual violence. It notes that:
- Each rape costs approximately $151,423;
- In 2008, violence and abuse constituted up to 37.5% of all health care costs, or up to $750 billion total;
- Rape is the most costly of all crimes to its victims, with total estimated costs at $127 billion a year (excluding the cost of child sexual abuse);
- Sexual abuse interferes with women’s More >