In this first section I'm only going address the part of that webinar about legislative action with a focus on primary prevention. I'm focusing on this first because the budget is currently under review and the earlier we can communicate with our representatives on this issue the better.
This is relevant to non-Minnesotans as well since many other states are also slashing their budgets. Primary prevention and services to victims are needed in all states and in all countries.
That topic and portions of a program entitled Stop Sexual Violence: Listen and Lead which is a coproduction of PBS station TPT channel 2 and MNCASA are included in a video archive of the Minnesota House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee.
To see the committee discussion led by Rep. Erin Murphy who is sponsoring this prevention effort and the presentation given by Donna Dunn of MNCASA (who I know from her time as the director of Olmsted County Victim Services) go to the MN House archives and scroll down to Feb. 11, 2009. Click on watch this program. Here's a direct link which didn't give me the video controls I got otherwise.
03:55 - Gavel, and discussion of HF587 (Murphy, E.) Sexual violence prevention demonstration grant funding provided, and money appropriated (informational hearing only).
The section of the hearing about sexual violence prevention is about an hour but I encourage everyone who wants to improve official prevention efforts to set aside an hour to watch and listen.
Donna Dunn used a different terminology which reflects the reality of sexual violence: violence that uses sex. This label applies even to so-called non-violent rape. Someone who views a lack of clear and freely given affirmative consent (verbal and non-verbal) as unimportant is being violent when that person proceeds whether they get the other person to comply or whether they use incapacitation as a tool.
This is an area where primary prevention is critical. There are too many people who don't believe it is rape if there isn't stereotypical violence or whenever the victim does anything which might indicate a potential willingness to have sex. These same people tend to define rape from the alleged rapist's perspective rather than from an objective perspective about whether or not there was freely given consent. This misdefinition gives us rapists who believe they have been wrongfully accused when they have in fact been rightfully accuse. These attitudes set up boys in particular to commit rape.
There was bipartison support for the prevention of sexual violence in this committee but it was clear that budgetary issues are the key barrier and this committee has no control over budget. This is where myself and my fellow Minnesotans can help by expressing our priorities and our willingness to back those priorities financially until prevention reduces the cost of not having systematic prevention strategies in place.
In 2005 the full cost of sexual violence in Minnesota (including public and private costs) was $8 billion according to a Minnesota Dept. Of Health sponsored study.
Primary prevention is cheaper in the long run than waiting until violence has happened and a sex offender must be sent to prison and subsequently included on the sex offender registry. This post-rape solution leaves many rape victims unprotected either because there isn't enough evidence to file charges or because a jury didn't believe the prosecution proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Hostile people who come to this and other blogs demanding, "What about the men?" should be the first people writing to their legislators supporting sexual violence prevention.
The program Stop Sexual Violence: Listen and Lead also highlights the services available to victims and survivors. These services are at risk because of budget issues. A fellow volunteer advocate, Jonathan Sapphira, guest posted here about the local fallout from this budget crisis which put the approximately $400,000 worth of volunteer hours at risk for an agency that serves 3 counties because the position of volunteer coordinator was unfunded.
In Minnesota, 13 counties don't have grants to provide important services to the victims of sexual violence. Clearly, there isn't enough funding now to meet the current need. Again citizens do have much more power than they assume they do.
Gov. Pawlenty's proposed budget will reduce funding from $1.4 to 1.2 million for sexual assault victim program grants and while this funding deserves to go up not down, the funding should at least be maintained to not lose important services (paid and volunteer) in a time when victims overall will have fewer alternate resources because of the economy.
If you live in Minnesota, please contact the governor, and your legislators through this district finder. You don't need to be a policy expert to speak out.
Also included in this committee hearing is a discussion about other sexual health issues such as STDs, pregnancy prevention and sexuality education. I haven't had time yet to watch that but when I get a free hour I plan to do so since it is linked to sexual violence prevention.