Prevention works. From wearing seatbelts to administering vaccines, prevention campaigns reduce risk and improve quality of life. When it comes to domestic and sexual violence, we can take the same approach. By addressing root causes, we can significantly reduce this type of violence. A violence-free California is possible!
But it will take sustained funding to ensure prevention programs reach current and future generations of Californians, especially youth. That’s why we, at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, and over 100 anti-violence organizations across California are calling on the governor and state legislature to invest in domestic and sexual violence prevention programs.
Our youth are our future. California spends billions on education because we understand it’s an investment in what is to come. While California’s education system has seen some improvements, there’s still a need for more social, emotional and sexual health education that recognizes the racial and gender identities of young people. Prevention programs can meet this need.
With a historic budget surplus, California’s legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom should lead on this issue and include $15 million in ongoing funding in the state budget. By combining prevention and intervention funding, we can address the needs of survivors of violence and also prevent future violence.
Domestic violence cannot end without addressing its root causes, which include oppressive attitudes like racism and transphobia. By dismantling systems that were built to intentionally create barriers for marginalized people, we reduce the disproportionate rates of violence against women of color, transgender people and others. Statistics show, 52 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native women and 41 percent of Black women will experience physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetimes, as will 54 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people.
Every year, domestic violence organizations across California strive to meet the demand for survivor services with limited resources. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, domestic violence programs sheltered almost 19,000 survivors for a total of 622,646 nights. They also provided non-shelter supportive services (like legal or medical assistance) to more than 109,000 survivors and answered over 215,000 hotline calls.
The good news is that organizations across the state are poised to continue their progress in supporting healthy and inclusive relationships. Domestic violence can be prevented by addressing the risk factors of intimate partner violence such as emotional stress, financial stress and adherence to rigid gender roles. Our members throughout California have done this successfully using one-time funding. To continue their efforts, they now seek permanent state support.
In Placer County, Stand Up Placer used a grant from a prior round of state prevention funding to create two LGBTQ+ youth prevention programs and provide violence prevention education for schools. A recurring virtual community space and a summer camp for LGBTQ+ youth allowed teens in the program to discuss LGBTQ+ history, violence prevention resources and what healthy relationships and dating looks like for queer people.
Girls Inc. of Alameda County taught African American and Latinx girls in middle and high school about safe dating and healthy relationships. These programs addressed the role that race, gender and economics play in violence and its prevention.
Jenesse Center in Los Angeles provided tools such as healthy communication techniques and coping skills to combat abuse, bullying, self-deprecation and trauma to more than 800 students and their parents that will give them the ability to break the cycle of violence in their lives.
Continuing this funding will save us in the long-term—financially and physically. With sustainable funding, we can achieve a California free of sexual and domestic violence.
Megan Tanahashi is a communications coordinator at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.