Now is the time to fund sexual assault survivor services

January 28, 2020 1:27 pm

As the statewide voice for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence pursues a policy agenda every Arizona legislative session aimed at preventing sexual assault and domestic violence from occurring in the first place, as well as empowering and supporting the survivors of these traumatic experiences. 

We continue to make progress in Arizona, but unfortunately still lag behind other states in many critical areas. 

Most notably, Arizona is one of the few states that does not provide any funding for sexual assault survivor services – things like advocacy, support groups, therapy and crisis lines. With Arizona’s economy booming and state finances more stable than we’ve seen in over a decade, it’s time to fix it. Arizona needs to support survivors of sexual violence with funding for survivor-centered services, including an expansion of current services and the introduction of 24/7 sexual assault specific services statewide. 

Fortunately, we already have an example of how these services can be funded and structured.  

Under state law, Arizona funds domestic violence services through a process that ensures programs are providing services in line with best practice standards and the current needs of survivors and communities. It appropriately defines what qualifies as a domestic violence program, ensures program priorities are determined through expert consultation with the state coalition, and ensures recipients of funds adhere to formalized statewide standards rooted in best practices.

Using this as a model, the legislature could pass new legislation with the same structure and parameters, but with a focus on funding services for sexual assault survivors across Arizona. These new services would allow sexual assault survivors to have greater access to resources for healing, while also ensuring these resources are high-quality and appropriately monitored by a state entity (the Arizona Department of Economic Security) with expertise in gender-based violence.

Helping these victims isn’t an exorbitant cost: We estimate $10 million could get these services up and running. When one considers that Arizona currently has a $700 million surplus this fiscal year – that is still growing – there is simply no justification to be one of the few states who refuses to fund services for sexual assault survivors. 

Unfortunately, sexual violence is all too prevalent in today’s society. A person is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds in the United States. It’s time to show survivors in Arizona that we admire their strength and are here to support them. We hope Republicans and Democrats can put their differences aside during the 2020 legislative session and fund these vital services.  

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Tasha Menaker

Tasha Menaker is the co-CEO of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. She has an MA in clinical psychology and a PhD in criminal justice, and has been engaged in work and research addressing gender-based violence for nearly 15 years.