WASHINGTON, DC  — In identical resolutions introduced in the House and Senate, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) called on Congress to focus greater attention and resources on the prevention of sexual assault and violence and support for victims — particularly members of underserved communities who experience sexual violence at higher rates and are less likely to have access to justice, mental and emotional support resources after being victimized.

 

“Sexual violence is a pervasive threat in our nation — it is more likely to touch women and girls of color, overwhelmingly present in Native American communities, rarely acknowledged but particularly egregious in LGBTQ communities and underreported nationwide,” said Watson Coleman. “The scale of this threat is immense, as are the physical, mental and emotional scars that survivors must manage for the rest of their lives. This resolution presents Congress — House and Senate — with a clear choice in values, asking whether or not we respect and appreciate our women and girls enough to make them a priority. As a woman and as a leader elected to find solutions to problems like this one I’m committed to making that answer a resounding ‘yes.’”

 

“It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to do all we can to eradicate sexual violence. This resolution challenges Congress to step up and do more for all survivors of sexual violence – especially those whose voices, leadership, and needs are so frequently overlooked.  I’m grateful to Representative Watson Coleman for partnering with me to introduce this in the House, and am honored to stand alongside Senators Cortez Masto, Baldwin, and Harris as sponsors in the Senate,” said Booker.

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and as we work to raise public awareness about sexual violence this month, it’s important to ensure that the voices of disenfranchised and underserved communities are heard and acknowledged, including immigrant survivors, survivors with disabilities, survivors of color, American Indian or Alaska Native survivors, survivors of child sexual abuse, queer and intersex survivors, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender survivors.

While all survivors’ voices need to be uplifted, troubling data illustrate the need to highlight those of historically and currently disenfranchised and underserved communities.  For instance:

 

  • 1 in 5 girls aged 14 to 18 has been kissed or touched without consent, including 24 percent of Latina girls, 23 percent of Native American girls, and 22 percent of Black girls
  • 56.1 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women have experienced sexual violence
  • 59.6 percent of LGBTQ secondary students have been sexually harassed at school and are more likely to experience sexual harassment than non-LGBTQ students
  • 31 percent of young women in the juvenile justice system have been sexually abused

 

And too often, survivors from historically and currently disenfranchised and underserved communities are ignored, blamed, and cast aside when seeking support after experiencing a form of sexual violence.

 

The resolution is supported by 23 organizations advocating for women and girls, minorities, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community, including:

 

  • End Rape on Campus (EROC)
  • Platform
  • Black Women's Blueprint, Inc.
  • Feminist Majority Foundation
  • Girls Inc.
  • GLSEN
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • Jewish Women International
  • Know Your IX
  • NAACP DC Branch
  • National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
  • National Alliance for Trans Equality
  • National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
  • National Center for Transgender Equality
  • The National Council on Independent Living
  • National Indian Education Association
  • National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH)
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Violence
  • Our Revolution
  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America
  • Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States
  • United We Dream

 

“As an organization dedicated to amplifying underrepresented voices in the rooms where decisions are made about our bodies, lives, and futures, we are grateful for the leadership of Congresswoman Watson Coleman and that of U.S. Senator Booker,” said Jennifer Mandelblatt, Managing Director of Platform. “They have once again proven they are not only making the space for voices to be heard, but they are committed to listening to, learning from, and responding to the voices of all survivors. This resolution creates a pathway for overdue and inclusive solutions to support all communities in the movement to end sexual violence

 

"This resolution makes me hopeful that elected officials will now think of all survivors and not just some survivors,” said Catalina Velasquez, Communications Director at End Rape on Campus (EROC). “All policymakers’ initiatives to eradicate sexual violence will incorporate holistic solutions that acknowledge the ongoing deaths of Black people and people with disabilities at the hands of police and the detention and subsequent deportation that happens after an undocumented survivor comes forward. As a transgender Latina with disabilities and beneficiary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), I am elated to see the intentionality coming from U.S. Senator Booker as well as Congresswoman Watson Coleman.”

 

“Senator Booker and Representative Watson Coleman’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month Resolution rightly highlights the ways intersectional oppression impacts survivors of sexual violence,” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA). “Underscoring that sexual violence is a human rights and social justice issue allows us to challenge the oppressive systems and cultural norms that disproportionately impact so many survivors, particularly in a state as rich in diversity as New Jersey. NJCASA thanks Senator Booker and Representative Watson Coleman for their longstanding commitment to elevating the voice of all individuals impacted by injustice.”

 

"To effectively combat sexual harassment and violence, we must acknowledge the ways in which students and working people are frequently targeted based on their overlapping identities--and work to make real the strong protections that our civil rights laws promise against this type of targeted harassment and violence," said Emily Martin, Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice at the National Women's Law Center. "As we continue to fight to ensure that all are free from sexual harassment at school and at work, we must lift up the stories of survivors of color, LGBTQ survivors, immigrant survivors, and survivors with disabilities, and ensure that our responses to harassment meet the specific needs of these individuals."

 

“Transgender people face appallingly high rates of sexual assault. As a result, working to end sexual violence and supporting survivors are critical to achieving equality for the nearly 2 million transgender people in the United States,” said Kory Masen, Racial and Economic Justice Policy Advocate for National Alliance for Trans Equality. As the resolution recognizes, federal laws prohibiting gender-based discrimination apply to discrimination against transgender people. Robust enforcement of these laws—including rejecting rollbacks of guidance and regulations that clarify how they apply to discrimination against transgender people—is a key part of reducing the factors that lead to disproportionately high rates of violence against transgender people.”

 

“In order to tackle this country’s epidemic of sexual violence head on, people—especially young people—need to recognize the complex power dynamics associated with sexual violence and especially among those already living at the margins. We support Senators Booker, Cortez Masto, Baldwin, and Harris and Representative Watson Coleman’s resolution, and applaud its inclusion of recognizing sex education as a critical tool for eliminating sexual violence and a necessity for changing our country’s culture that has, for too long, enabled it,” said Chitra Panjabi, SIECUS President & CEO.

 

"It is absolutely essential to raise the voices of survivors from vulnerable communities, assure their needs are met in federal law, and invest in prevention. We know, together, we can end sexual violence with no one left behind but not unless we also end oppression. We are grateful for the leadership of Senators Booker, Cortez Masto, Baldwin, and Harris and of Representative Watson Coleman," said Terri Poore, Policy Director, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence

 

“GLSEN is committed to increasing awareness of the lives and stories of LGBTQ sexual violence and sexual harassment survivors, populations often forgotten in the public discourse on these issues,” said Sarah Munshi, GLSEN “We are encouraged by the inclusion of LGBTQ+ populations in this resolution and in the day to day work of all the organizations working to end the epidemic of violence, abuse and harassment so many of our young people face.”

 

To see the text of the bill click here.