2013-2014 Accomplishments Policy and Advocacy Federal Advocacy

Federal Advocacy

In October, the Joyful Heart team had the honor of traveling to Austin, Texas with Vice President Biden to visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. During our trip, we spoke with the Vice President and his staff members about the reforms needed at the federal level to ensure jurisdictions like Memphis, Detroit and others have the resources they need to end the backlog. Since then, our work and impact at the federal level has increased exponentially.

In March, the White House released its FY2015 Budget, which—for the first time—dedicated $35 million in funding to provide local communities with the resources they need to test backlogged kits in their police storage facilities; create multi-disciplinary teams to investigate and prosecute cases connected to the backlog; and address the need for victim notification and re-engagement with the criminal justice system. The House of Representatives has voted to approve the program at $41 million—above and beyond the White House’s requested level—and the Senate bill, which also allocates $41 million, has been introduced and is currently being debated.

Because of our effective work at the Capitol around this issue, we have also been granted a strong voice in the Administration’s efforts to address another aspect of sexual assault: campus sexual assault. In February, Sarah Tofte, Joyful Heart’s Vice President of Policy & Advocacy, attended a listening session at the White House with advocates from across the country to inform recommendations being developed by The White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault. In March, Joyful Heart was invited by the White House to co-host a meeting convened by The Task Force with technologists, students, policy experts and survivors to brainstorm innovative new ways to address the alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, including through prevention, more effective and transparent responses to incidents and opportunities to better support survivors on their journey to recovery. Our board member, Sukey Novogratz, gave the keynote speech, sharing her experience as a survivor of campus sexual assault. She spoke to the progress that has been made—and the work left to come.

A month after this gathering, The Task Force announced a series of actions to address sexual assault on campuses that included many of the issues and recommendations identified in these sessions.

“We must speak about these issues, boldly, thoughtfully and often, because
criminals thrive when we are silent, when we are reluctant to engage,
when we insist that these issues are too murky to sort out.”
- Mariska Hargitay, TIME, May 15, 2014

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