Opinion: We Can End Sexual and Domestic Violence. We Just Need Funding

Photo by Candy Retriever/iStock

To experience a world free from violence, California must invest in the necessary funding and resources to prevent it.

Prevention works by changing the conditions and norms that allow sexual and domestic violence to occur. But prevention takes time, and a sustained investment.

So far this year, in the budget process, legislators and the Governor have failed to recognize this vital need.

Sexual and domestic violence is a public health crisis that disproportionately impacts underserved and marginalized communities and undermines an individual’s right to autonomy and personhood. Prevention allows communities to take a holistic approach to addressing sexual and domestic violence.

California granted $15 million in one-time funding in 2021 to support communities in preventing sexual and domestic violence. But that funding is set to expire in April, 2024. Without the prospect of renewed funding, 46 anti-violence programs in California that rely on state support are being forced to make decisions they should never have to make: Do they shut down their prevention programs? Lay off staff? Turn to youth and tell them there will no longer be resources to provide education about healthy relationships? Cut prevention programs designed for specific populations, such as immigrants and the LGBTQ community?

A coalition of four leading organizations and over 100 supporting organizations are working alongside budget champion, Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), to advocate for $20 million to support existing community-based prevention programs and a modest expansion of prevention efforts among other anti-violence organizations. 

Last month, the White House released the first-ever National Plan to End Gender-Based Violence: Strategies for Action, outlining seven strategic pillars to prevent and end gender-based violence. Prevention is the first pillar. The National Plan emphasizes that, for the country to end the public health crisis of gender-based violence, agencies, communities and society must work together to invest in prevention. 

And yet, the California Assembly and Senate released their final state budget actions and failed to include any funding for prevention. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May revised budget also failed to include prevention funding.  

The lack of state action contrasts directly with the federal government’s commitment to enhance and promote gender-based violence prevention and innovative solutions for survivors from marginalized, underserved and vulnerable populations.

California is positioned to set a ground-breaking example for the rest of the country by shifting from reactive intervention when sexual and domestic violence occurs, to investing in proactive preventative measures. These measures have been shown to effectively address the root causes of violence and create safe and healthy communities. An evaluation by the California Department of Public Health and the Center on Gender Equity and Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine highlights the effectiveness of one such prevention effort: California’s Rape Prevention and Education Program. This program, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, brings funding and resources to states to support prevention programming. Over 40 percent of organizations that implemented this program reported that it resulted in a school or community policy or protocol change that would help reduce sexual violence in their community. The same evaluation found that over 80 percent of participating agencies reported community leadership, action, or interest in preventing sexual violence following implementation of the program. 

While effective, the Rape Prevention and Education Program is only a small piece of the puzzle. Widespread prevention requires continued financial support for the dozens of community-based prevention programs funded through the Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Grant, which is now set to expire. 

Oftentimes, California policy sets a precedent for states across the nation. The governor and California Legislature have a unique opportunity to set a national standard to demand a world free from violence, and that can be achieved by investing in prevention funding.

Grace Glaser is the Public Affairs & Policy Manager for ValorUS.

Megan Tanahashi is the Strategic Communications Analyst for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

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