March 2013

How VAWA Protects Victims

capitol dome

When Congress this month renewed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), it was a relief for the thousands of service providers and law enforcement agencies that have felt its impact. From 1995 (the year after VAWA first passed) to 2010, sexual violence in the US dropped by 64%, according to a report this month from the Justice Department. While many things have contributed to this progress, the programs that VAWA put in place deserve some of the credit.

Are you wondering what, exactly, VAWA does — and how it helps? Here are a few of its key parts.

  • Training programs for law enforcement officers have helped improve their understanding of the crime, their ability to effectively interview victims, and the quality of police investigations. Similar training for district attorneys has helped improve their ability to prosecute rape, while training for judges has improved the environment for victims whose cases go to trial.
  • Programs encourage the reporting and prosecution of sexual assault to police. Currently, only 43% of sexual assaults are reported to police. While this rate has dramatically increased over the past 18 years since VAWA was originally passed, there is still much room for improvement. A higher reporting rate will mean more survivors receive justice for the crimes committed against them, and more serial rapists are taken off the streets.
  • The Sexual Assault Service Program funds victim services and prevention programs at local sexual assault service providers. It is the only dedicated funding stream for local agencies. VAWA also includes programs that fund education on college campuses and services to victims in underserved areas.
  • For the first time, VAWA now includes the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act, which will help eliminate the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved rape cases and take thousands of rapists off the streets.
New Air Force Program Aids
Sexual Assault Survivors
air force seal

In an effort to help victims and improve the criminal justice response to rape, the Air Force has launched a pilot project to provide legal counsel directly to victims of sexual assault. The Special Victims' Council Program (SVC) trains Air Force lawyers to advise sexual assault victims and help them navigate the criminal justice system. In an innovative twist, the lawyers play more than an advisory role. In addition to providing legal advice, they will also represent victims through a confidential, attorney-client relationship throughout the investigation and prosecution process, and will have standing in court to represent the interests of their clients.

"We are very excited to be the first large-scale federal program providing victims of sexual assault with attorneys to represent their privacy and legal interests," says Lt. Gen. Richard C. Harding, The Judge Advocate General of the Air Force. "Victims of sexual assault sadly are often called upon to deal with a number of complex issues, from rape-shield protections to no-contact orders. The men and women who volunteered to serve this great nation deserve the very best and the focus of our program is to give that level of care to our Airmen."

Read more about the Air Force's Special Victim's Counsel and RAINN's work helping sexual assault survivors in the military here.

PBS to Air Documentary on
Violence in Tribal Communities

PBS next month will air a two-part series by acclaimed filmmaker David Sutherland that shines a light on the issues of sexual violence on Indian reservations. With the reauthorization of VAWA — which extends certain domestic violence protections to Indians attacked by non-Native perpetrators — headlining the news, this important documentary, Kind Hearted Woman, demonstrates the real-life trouble and hardships facing Robin Charboneau, a 32-year-old divorced single mother and Oglala Sioux woman living on North Dakota's Spirit Lake Reservation. Sutherland follows Charboneau over three years as she struggles to raise her two children, further her education and heal herself from the wounds of sexual abuse she suffered as a child. Echoing her own abuse, Robin discovers that her husband has sexually abused their daughter.

RAINN is partnering with PBS and the producers of Kind Hearted Woman to bring attention to Indians who are victims of sexual violence. Kind Hearted Woman airs on PBS April 1st and 2nd.

Read more about the documentary and RAINN's partnership here.

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Robin Charboneau and her children, Anthony (left) and Darian (right)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kimmer Olesak

Macmillan and RAINN Launch Twitter
Campaign to Celebrate Speak
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Macmillan Publishing and RAINN are teaming to launch #Speak4RAINN, a Twitter campaign to raise funds for survivors of sexual violence. The campaign coincides with 14th anniversary of the publication of Speak, the acclaimed novel by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Speak, a National Book Award finalist for Young People's Literature, introduces a teenage heroine who initially retreats into isolation and silence after she is raped. Ultimately, she speaks for many teenagers while demonstrating the importance of standing up for oneself. Teenage and adult survivors regularly tell RAINN that Speak is as important to their recovery as it is relatable to their experience.

The month-long campaign launches April 2. Through the #Speak4RAINN campaign, Anderson seeks to mobilize her readers and others who care about fighting sexual violence. The campaign asks supporters to donate $10 to help one survivor through the National Sexual Assault Hotline. All donations to the #Speak4RAINN campaign will be matched, up to $10,000, by Macmillan.

"I talked about the fact that I always travel with RAINN contact info, since I am always meeting rape survivors," Anderson explains. "RAINN is a resource I point people to, since they are professional, secure, and safe — they save and change lives. When the people at Macmillan heard what they do, they were very excited to partner with them."

Read more about the campaign.

Stay tuned to RAINN's Twitter feed (@RAINN01) for the latest on #Speak4RAINN


 RAINN in the News

cnn logo "It's such a violent and personal crime. It's not somebody just breaking into your house. It's somebody assaulting the most private part of you. Having that be public, especially as a minor, can be traumatic." — RAINN's Jennifer Marsh to CNN

cbs logo "Minors especially are afraid to report because they think they'll get in trouble. They think, it's my fault for doing something [like drinking] that I wasn't supposed to be doing." — Marsh to CBS

cbs logo The Violence Against Women Act "has helped dramatically reduce the level of rape in this country." — RAINN's Scott Berkowitz to CBS

More News
Double Your Impact
match your rainn donation

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month, a generous group of supporters has agreed to match your donation to RAINN, dollar-for-dollar, through April 30th.

Starting today, every $10 you donate = $20, enabling two survivors to get the help they deserve through RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline.

With the high-profile case in Steubenville, OH and demand for RAINN's Online Hotline continually on the rise, we need your help to ensure that every man, woman and child who reaches out receives the help they deserve. Donate today and double your impact.

Like to Eat? Chow Down for RAINN
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This spring, student groups and community organizations across the country are Chowing Down for RAINN! They'll be encouraging their friends and families, classmates and colleagues to eat at participating restaurants, which are donating a portion of their proceeds to RAINN. Email RAINN to get involved in your own community.

Spotlight on the Speakers Bureau: Abigail DeClerk
Abigail DeClerk

Being a member of the Speakers Bureau has helped drastically with my healing process. To know that I am supported by so many people that have been through similar experiences and also to know that I have the ability to help prevent situations like mine from happening again means the world to me. I hope that by being a member of the Speakers Bureau I can give the support and advice that I had searched for and found through RAINN.

Learn more about becoming a member of RAINN's Speakers Bureau

Hotline Staffer Spotlight:
Megan Stocking

"Having worked on RAINN's National Sexual Assault Online Hotline, it continues to astound me how much this type of service is needed to support survivors of trauma. The Online Hotline is unique in its accessibility and personalized features for our visitors and we are fulfilling such an important need for a lot of survivors every day."

Learn more about volunteering for RAINN

Did You Know?
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Just $10 will help one survivor through the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

Help a survivor today.

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