14 Jun NYSCASA Monthly Digest – June 2019
Announcements from NYSCASA
2018 Annual Report
NYSCASA Honors Pride Month
This LGBTQ Pride Month marks 50 years since the June 28, 1968, uprising at the Stonewall Inn, when patrons and neighborhood residents resisted harassment and abuse during a police raid on the Greenwich Village gay bar.
This Pride Month—and every month—NYSCASA stands with LGBTQIA survivors of sexual violence. This year, especially, as the current administration rolls back civil rights and healthcare protections for the LGBTQIA community, we honor transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary survivors. We see you, we hear you, and we stand with you.
Save the Date: Healthy Relationships Project Trainings
This summer and fall, NYSCASA will provide a two-day “train-the trainer” training on the Healthy Relationships Project, a child sexual abuse prevention curriculum. Locations are to be announced, but NYSCASA will offer the training on August 12–13 and again on September 23–24.
Stay tuned for updates and additional information from NYSCASA’s Prevention Director, Sarah Podber. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Sarah at email@example.com.
2020 Sexual Assault Prevention and Intervention Conference
NYSCASA is thrilled to announce that we are co-creating a conference to be held in 2020 with Seven Dancers Coalition, the Indigenous anti-violence coalition in New York State and Haudenosaunee Country.
The 2020 conference and related programming will provide a space for community members, service providers, and professionals in a variety of fields to develop skills in using restorative justice, transformative justice, and community accountability practices to prevent and respond to sexual violence.
The conference will be held on June 4–6, 2020. Locations, workshops, and speakers to be announced. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Chelsea Miller, Communications Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Latest in Survivor-Centered Advocacy and Policy
Child Victims Act Resources
In February, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law. There are three components to the law:
- This legislation allows those who are victims of child sexual assault to bring civil lawsuits up until their 55th birthday (as opposed to 23). If survivors were eligible to file a civil law suit before the passage of this law, it also allows these survivors to file up until age 55, though legal experts recommend filing sooner if possible.
- This legislation would allow the criminal prosecution of many sexual offenses committed against children, to begin up until the age of 23 rather than by age 18.
- It also allows childhood survivors of sexual abuse, who could not file a civil lawsuit because they did not start a suit by the time they were 23 years of age, a one-year period to file a civil action for damages. There is no age limit on bringing these actions during this “window”. The “window” is set to commence 6 months from the signing of the law, or August 14, 2019. You can find the full law here.
NYSCASA and the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault have come up with a resource guide to help survivors navigate their way through this challenging experience.
To counteract the deluge of attorney ads and hard-selling tactics, Safe Horizon is developing a guide for victims with questions to ask prospective attorneys. Safe Horizon, which runs a national victims’ assistance hotline, will also sponsor its own ad campaign this summer informing victims of the legislation and directing them to a credible resource site. In addition, the Legal Project at Vera House Inc. is creating a Preferred Provider list of attorneys practicing in the areas of family law, trusts and estates, bankruptcy, immigration, and NYS Child Victims Act claims. NYSCASA will share these resources when they are available.
Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act
In May, Governor Cuomo signed the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (S.1077/A.3974, “DVSJA”), a bill that codifies meaningful sentence reductions for domestic violence survivors who encounter the criminal legal system. The DVSJA allows judges to sentence survivors to shorter prison terms and, in some cases, community-based alternative-to-incarceration programs instead of prison, and will provide survivors currently in prison the opportunity to apply for resentencing.
NYSCASA applauds the tireless work of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Coalition for Women Prisoners, STEPS to End Family Violence, Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, and all other organizations and individuals for their advocacy and organizing.
The DVSJA can keep survivors out of jail and prison for crimes against the people who have harmed them. In The Atlantic, Victoria Law reports on the DVSJA and possibilities for expanding survivors’ rights across the country: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/05/new-york-domestic-violence-sentencing/589507
After public pressure from the survivor-led Sexual Harassment Working Group, the New York State Legislature finally held the first two public hearings on workplace sexual harassment.
- Sexual harassment laws stuck in the last generation – In this NY Daily News op-ed, Rita Pasarell and Leah Hebert, two of the co-founders of the Sexual Harassment Working Group, highlight stories of workplace sexual harassment across New York State and offer recommendations for how to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Prickly Politics: Women in the Room – The current season of the Prickly Politics podcast investigates the history of workplace sexual harassment in and around the New York State Capitol and centers the voices of survivors and victims of sexual harassment and abuse in Albany.
Sexual harassment is one of several factors that can push young people to not finish their education. Our schools fail students when they fail to take action when bullying, harassment, and sexual assault occur.
Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is calling on the NYC Department of Education to hire additional Title IX coordinators to protect students from gender discrimination and gender-based violence. On May 31, GGE held a rally and press conference to honor the memory of Mya Vizcarrondo-Rios, a Bronx high school student who passed away due to suicide last year just hours after an alleged sexual assault on campus.
A lawsuit filed by Mya’s parents alleges that school officials knew about bullying and harassment Mya had experienced at school prior to the incident, but failed to take action to protect her. According to GGE, Mya Vizcarrondo-Rios should still be here, and she might be, had the DOE taken measures to protect its 1.1 million students from sexual violence and to ensure that the appropriate measures are taken once an incident has occurred.
Several states have recently passed legislation banning or restricting access to abortion. However, history tells us that abortion bans do not prevent abortion. Rather, such legislation prevents safe and legal abortions. Moreover, people of color and other marginalized people will be disproportionately criminalized for seeking abortion access.
All people should be empowered to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health. In order to truly support survivors, we must facilitate access to health care, not restrict or criminalize it.
- Recent abortion bans will impact poor people and people of color most – The recent abortion bans will not stop abortions from happening. They will only ensure that some groups—specifically, poor people and people of color—are disproportionately punished when seeking access to abortions, writes Renee Bracey Sherman.
- Can we have a conversation about abortion bans and the South? – Alicia Garza reminds us that Southerners have been organizing for a long time to protect the rights of vulnerable communities in the South, and reproductive access is no exception.
- My rapist apologized: I still needed an abortion – Sometimes legislation restricting abortion access includes exceptions for survivors of sexual violence or incest. (Notably, Alabama’s latest abortion ban does not.) In this brave op-ed, Michelle Alexander highlights the limits of “rape exceptions” to abortion bans and the importance of fighting for our right to choose.
- Reproductive control is about far more than “women’s bodies” – The most popular and widely accepted argument about abortion bans is that it is about “women’s bodies” and men’s desire to control them. However, Sherronda J. Brown explains, this perspective erases a whole host of other things that abortion rights are inherently about.
Sexual Violence in the News
Content warning: These stories contain descriptions of sexual violence.
- Fighting for ‘rape is rape’ bill in Albany – A former Bronx schoolteacher sexually assaulted at gunpoint by an off-duty NYPD cop nearly a decade ago returned to Albany in May to push lawmakers to pass legislation expanding the legal definition of rape in New York State. Under current New York law, only forced vaginal penetration is considered rape, while the other attacks are classified as criminal sex acts. While carrying the same legal penalties, not classifying these acts as rape reduces their perceived severity.
- Law firms accuse 83 clerics in the Albany Diocese of sexual abuse – Last month in Albany, sexual abuse survivors joined representatives of two law firms in releasing the names and photographs of more than 80 clerics in the Diocese of Albany accused of sexual misconduct.
- NYPD has systematically undercounted rape statistics in NYC for years – While NYS has instructed police departments to follow federal guidelines, with an expanded definition of rape, NYPD continues to undercount rape statistics using a narrow set of data in its public reporting of sexual violence statistics in NYC.
- In emotional interviews, former Boy Scouts open up about abuse – Hundreds of men across the US have recently contacted lawyers for help suing the Boy Scouts of America for sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of scout leaders. Many of the men are from New York, which adjusted its restrictive statute-of-limitations law with the Child Victims Act.
New and Noteworthy Resources
The Sexual Assault Demonstration Initiative (SADI) is the first large-scale project to address the challenges that dual/multi-service programs face in reaching sexual assault survivors. In this new SADI e-learning tool, three Technical Assistance Providers discuss how to, both personally and organizationally, regularly develop new skills in order to build new practices that are embedded with a deep commitment to unlearning and disrupting all forms of oppression and very specifically racism in order to enhance our sexual assault services to survivors.
PREA standards explicitly protect TGNCI youth due to their extreme vulnerability to sexual assault and mistreatment. The relevant standards govern a range of practices, including risk assessment, housing and classification, searches, and privacy. This new publication offers practical policies that operationalize the standards and provide clear guidance to facility staff about promoting the safety and well-being of TGNCI residents.
Shannan Wilber and Jason Szanyi, Model Policy: Transgender, Gender Nonconforming, and Intersex Youth in Confinement Facilities. National Center for Lesbian Rights and Center for Children’s Law and Policy, 2019.
In 2018, In Our Own Voices facilitated an LGBT POC Health Pulse Check to document the lived healthcare experiences of LGBT POC community members in the Albany, NY, area. This report details the findings of the Pulse Check and provides recommendations for culturally-responsive healthcare settings.
- Re-Envisioning Community Norms: Social Norms Change as a Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Strategy – This webinar recording from PreventConnect explores why changing norms requires comprehensive actions across where we work, live, and play. Through norms change we can move toward equity, accountability, and justice and a more expansive understanding of gender—all rooted in respect for people to live free from violence.
- Project DOT (Dream, Own, Tell): Impacting Community-Level Change Through Youth-Led Mobilization – Staff from the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault share the Project DOT model and how to effectively implement sexual violence prevention programs that keep communities, especially communities at the margins, at the center.
- How to Build Partnerships, Adapt Content, & Use Other Strategies for Prevention Training on Campus – This recorded workshop guides viewers through a framework for relationship-centered partnership building on campuses to promote sexual violence prevention.
- From a Cycle of Violence to a Culture of Safety: A County Capacity Building and Planning Process to Prevent Multiple Forms of Violence – This recorded workshop provides a blueprint to coordinate violence prevention efforts across multiple forms of violence, multiple sectors, and multiple county offices and departments.