DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) Commends Obama’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Assault

UPDATE: We need your support! Please sign DC JSC’s letter to DC Council in support of critical legislation to protect survivors of sexual assault in DC. 

DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) Commends Obama’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Assault
DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) Commends Obama’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Assault

January 23, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Renee Davidson
DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC)
renee@collectiveactiondc.org
202-556-4232

DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) Commends Obama’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Assault
Group Demands Justice for Survivors in DC

Washington, D.C. — The DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) applauds the initiative to combat sexual assault announced Wednesday by the Obama administration, a move that DC JSC hopes will mobilize councilmembers in DC. The initiative, announced alongside a report by the White House Council on Women and Girls, shines light on an epidemic that devastates thousands of lives a year, including in the District of Columbia. “We hope the Administration’s announcement will help foster the cultural and institutional change needed to prevent sexual assaults, and spur similar action by DC Council to support and protect survivors of sexual assault locally,” said Susan Mottet, president of DC NOW.

The DC JSC is a grassroots coalition established in response to recent evidence of police mismanagement of sexual assault cases in Washington, DC. Formed by Collective Action for Safe Spaces, (CASS), the DC Rape Crisis Center and DC NOW, its members include survivors, direct service providers, advocacy organizations, allies and community members working to increase and codify the rights of and improve services for survivors of sexual assault in the District of Columbia.

The DC JSC is encouraged that findings in the White House report released Wednesday echo concerns that we have voiced regarding the treatment of survivors of sexual assault in DC. The report finds that the criminal justice response to sexual assault across the U.S. is largely inadequate, plagued by police bias and a lack of training that contribute to officers failing to believe victims and ignoring critical trauma-sensitive protocols. These findings mirror investigations into the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), which found that DC police routinely discouraged survivors from reporting, including posing victim-blaming or inappropriate questions and questioning their credibility.

“The DC JSC is pleased that the White House has outlined serious strategies to combat sexual assault, many of which are included in DC’s Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act of 2013 (SAVRAA), key legislation introduced by the DC Council in June,” said Julia Strange, Director of Programs and Policy for Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), who joined other DC JSC members in testifying at the December 2013 hearing on SAVRAA. “However, we believe that SAVRAA falls short of fully protecting survivors, especially by allowing exceptions to a survivor’s right to a victim advocate,” said Strange. The White House report underscores the importance of a victim advocate, stating that “survivors who have assistance from an advocate are more likely to have police reports taken and less likely to be treated poorly by officers.”

The right to a victim advocate without exception is a one of three key amendments — along with establishing an external sexual assault case review process and requiring an independent consultant to assist with reforms — that the DC JSC believes must be added to SAVRAA in order to protect survivors of sexual assault to the fullest degree possible. “The White House’s findings attest that our policy recommendations to the DC Council support the best interests of survivors,” said Sherelle Hessell-Gordon, executive director of the DC Rape Crisis Center. “We hope DC Council takes note of the Administration’s similar findings and puts the needs and rights of District survivors first.”

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The DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) is a grassroots coalition of sexual assault survivors, direct service providers, advocacy organizations, allies and community members working to increase the rights of and improve services for survivors of sexual assault in the District of Columbia. Formed by Collective Action for Safe Spaces, (CASS), the DC Rape Crisis Center and DC NOW, the DC JSC believes that sexual assault survivors must receive fair and compassionate treatment from first responders, service providers and members of law enforcement and the justice system. We believe there should be greater transparency by agencies and organizations that work with survivors of sexual assault to reduce revictimization.

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