Menendez, Anti-Sexual Assault Advocates Implore All to #BelieveSurvivors

Menendez, Anti-Sexual Assault Advocates Implore All to #BelieveSurvivors

   

HACKENSACK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, an original co-sponsor of the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), today stood alongside anti-sexual assault advocates to demand that survivors are not only heard, but believed. In the wake of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s heroic and heart-wrenching testimony last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her while the two were in high school, countless survivors called Sen. Menendez’s offices to tell their own story. There are 1.8 million sexual assault survivors living in New Jersey.

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“This isn’t about just a Supreme Court Nominee. This is about the victim blaming narrative that has dominated our national discourse in relation to that nominee and survivors are listening,” said Patricia Teffenhart, Director of New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “Adult survivors of child sexual abuse, survivors of college assault, survivors of workplace sexual harassment, survivor athletes, survivors of clergy abuse. 1.8 million survivors living in New Jersey are listening, and our children are listening. This isn’t about partisan politics, this is about human decency.

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“We are at a critical moment in time, #MeToo, Times up, Dr. Blasey Ford, the two women in the elevator who told their stories to Senator Flake, and many many others have helped us move forward,” said Professor Sarah McMahon, Director of Center on Violence Against Women and Children. “However, we should not have to depend on survivors sharing their pain to create change. We all need to take action and make this a community issue and must demand that there are policies, programs, and services in place to reflect our true commitment. Survivors are waiting and watching, the world is watching, and the time is now.”

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The press conference was held at YWCA’s healingSPACE, Bergen County’s only sexual violence resource center. healingSPACE offers individual and group counseling, educational programs, as well as legal advocacy services.

“One of the most basic needs of all survivors is to be believed,” said Helen Archontou, CEO of YWCA Bergen County. “The doubt criticism and threats leveled at Dr. Ford have been a painful reminder to all survivors as to why they are often silent in the first place. Victim blaming reinforces survivors despair that no one will really understand what they have been through. It also allows perpetrators who have committed sexual violence to get away with it.”

 

CLICK TO WATCH ARCHONTOU’S REMARKS 

Sen. Menendez has a long history of standing up for women’s rights. He is the prime sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to enshrine in law, once and for all, the notion that women have the exact same rights as men. He has also cosponsored a separate resolution that would remove the deadline for ratification of the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment and allow three more states to ratify and make it law. He was also the lead sponsor of the bipartisan End Modern Slavery Initiative Act, which will create a powerful public-private partnership to help eliminate modern slavery around the globe; and an original co-sponsor of the International Women’s Day resolution.

Menendez has supported Obama Administration guidance on campus sexual assault, and last year he met with NJ-CASA and other anti-sexual assault rights advocates in Montclair after secretary DeVos announced she would rescind those guidelines. Menendez joined 27 Senate colleagues in a letter to Secretary DeVos urging her to keep in place the tighter guidelines.  

Sen. Menendez cosponsored the 1993 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) when he was serving in the House of Representatives and has consistently supported reauthorization and funding for VAWA programs, which has been credited for a 63% drop in sexual assault since the law was passed.  He also cosponsored the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (Campus SaVE Act) that was passed as part of the last VAWA five-year reauthorization in 2013 and addressed the problem of sexual violence on college campuses by requiring colleges and universities to clearly outline their policies regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. 

Sen. Menendez is an original cosponsor of the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act that would prohibit housing discrimination against survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault.  In November, he joined other original cosponsors in reintroducing the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA).  He cosponsored the Campus Accountability and Safety Act that increased oversight and protection against sexual assaults on college and university campuses, and cosponsored the Pet and Women Safety Act of 2015 that protected the pets of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence. 

Additionally, the senator has supported robust federal funding for the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA) Assistance Programs, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program and the Department of Justice Campus Grant Program.