Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Policy Actions Needed to Support Survivors during COVID-19

Woman video conferencing on her computer

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of how we live, work, and play. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which means it’s a good time to consider the impact of COVID-19 on the efforts of rape crisis centers to meet the needs of survivors.

Frontline leaders are communicating a grave need for emergency funding on the federal, state, and local level to ensure advocates can serve survivors effectively. For many survivors who are left alone, the uncertain circumstances can be devastating and the trauma can be difficult to understand and process. The lack of telehealth capabilities and funding to build a digital infrastructure makes it extremely difficult to respond to survivors’ medical needs. Rape crisis centers need immediate financial assistance to help ease the burden. Funding is needed for the following:

Remote work and communication: Tablets, cell phones, telehealth, internet connection, and other equipment and the use of online platforms are critical in reaching survivors.  
Survivor emergency essentials: Many survivors have nowhere to go, sometimes becoming homeless. They need food, shelter, money for rent, pre-paid cell phones, and basic needs for their safety and their children. There is an extreme need for immigrants and other vulnerable populations.
Transportation for rape crisis centers: Transportation is needed to deliver emergency items to survivors and help them get to a safe place. Vans needed to be rented to do so.  

Here’s how you can help.

The next federal stimulus package in response to COVID-19 can provide the financial support for programs and services for survivors. We encourage you to review the RALIANCE District Advocacy Toolkit (linked here) for details on how to advocate for survivors in your community. We are requesting the following from Congress. You can support the mission by calling your representative to say that you stand with survivors and want them to vote for the following:

– Provide $100 million in emergency Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP) funding to allow rape crisis centers and coalitions to transition to remote operations, allowing them to support survivors of sexual violence.
– Waive the match requirement on the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Crime Victims Fund at the Department of Justice and enact policies to increase deposits to the fund. 
– Ensure immigrant survivors can seek support and emergency assistance.

We are in this together! By advocating for emergency funding for survivors, we provide relief for survivors and other vulnerable populations who have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.

Many SAAM in-person events have been postponed or canceled due to COVID-19, but this does not stop the movement. Join us on Thursday, April 9, at 03:30 PM ET (tomorrow) as we commemorate the month and explore the needs of local programs during the pandemic by tuning into our virtual briefing, “Rape Crisis Centers: Meeting the Needs of Survivors During COVID-19.” To register or learn more, please click here.  

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