Remarks as Prepared
Thank you, Karlo. And thank you to everyone who participated or who joined our audience to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. It is so inspiring to hear everything that the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development – not to mention our remarkable non-governmental partners – are doing to address and prevent sexual assault, misconduct and harassment, and to provide necessary services to survivors. All of us at OVW were excited to hear Assistant Attorney General Clarke announce the Civil Rights Division’s new Coordinating Committee to Combat Sexual Misconduct, and we cannot wait to see their innovative work in action.
Sexual violence – in all its forms – is an affront to our values, impacting the lives of everyone in our communities, not just those of us who are survivors. Sexual assault harms all of us in a workplace or a neighborhood or a family. It ripples out. And it demands a response from all of us in a workplace or a neighborhood or a family. I was inspired to hear today about the many ways our colleagues at DOJ’s Civil Rights Division are at the forefront of that multifaceted response, by enforcing federal civil and criminal rights statutes in the workplace, public education institutions, housing complexes, state-run jails and more.
Sexual violence is community violence. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta captured this sentiment in a previous statement when she said: “the impact of sexual assault can reverberate throughout a community, and the response to sexual assault within a community…has a profound and lasting impact on the health and well-being of a sexual assault survivor.”
That response must be rooted in what survivors themselves tell us they need. We must hold survivors at the forefront of our efforts to repair and prevent harm in schools, homes and workplaces. We know that sexual violence can and does happen to anyone, in every walk of life, across the lifespan and gender continuum.
That’s why the Biden Administration is taking a whole-of-government approach to addressing gender-based violence and is centering the needs of historically marginalized survivors at the core of that response. To prevent and end sexual assault and harassment, we must meaningfully advance racial and gender equity, including equity for transgender individuals.
We heard our panelists today emphasize the need to fund culturally specific, community-based organizations and population-specific organizations – organizations that are by and for communities of color, tribes and underserved communities – because those organizations are more likely to understand the complex challenges survivors face when attempting to access services and attain justice, and are thus are more capable of addressing and responding to those challenges and meeting survivors where they are. Increasing funding for these organizations is one of OVW’s priorities, and is part of DOJ’s racial equity plan.
As you also heard from our panelists, housing for sexual assault survivors is of huge concern, particularly because they are underserved by traditional housing services. That’s why it is so important to ensure survivors have access to housing free from discrimination and why DOJ’s Civil Rights Division’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is so crucial. VAWA 2022 also expands housing stability for survivors by enhancing not just housing assistance but also legal aid that can help reduce the risk of homelessness for survivors. This includes access to comprehensive legal representation in eviction cases as well as post-conviction relief, both of which have huge impacts on survivors’ ability to maintain stable housing. VAWA 2022 also increases housing protections for survivors. When we keep people safe and housed, we impact entire families and communities – even generations.
We know many of you in the audience are on the front lines doing this life-changing work, and it is an honor to be with you today. Thank you for everything you do. You are key partners in combatting sexual violence. And to all survivors: please know that you are not alone. We see you. We hear you. We are with you. Together we can end sexual violence.
Thank you for joining us today.