Menendez Renews Commitment to Fight for Victims of Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence

Menendez Renews Commitment to Fight for Victims of Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez today told a group of New Jersey sexual assault victims’ advocates that he will vigorously fight any proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that may impact funding for essential services for sexual assault victims and prevention.  The Trump Administration recently released a so-called “Skinny Budget” that outlined the president’s broad funding priorities and included a $54 billion cut to domestic discretionary spending with few details.

“Sexual assault is one of the most heinous crimes that far too many people experience,” said Sen. Menendez.  “This is a critical issue for our country.  Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted and 94% of women who are raped experience post-traumatic stress disorder in the two week period following the rape. This issue should be at the forefront of our minds.  I have passionately worked to prevent assault through supporting and passing laws to fund services to help survivors, prevent sexual assault on campus, and end discrimination against sexual assault survivors.  I will not abandon these essential service-providers as we debate the Trump Administration’s budget proposal.”


The senator held a conference call with members of the N.J. Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NJCASA) to hear directly their priorities, unique challenges and the needs of the communities they serve, including expanding rape crisis centers to help victims in both rural and urban corners of the state and addressing campus-based threats with greater prevention initiatives. 


“I wanted to organize this call because I want to hear from those who are actually providing the services that help so many people.  This was a valuable opportunity for me to learn from the best that New Jersey has to offer, and to hear the unique challenges that service providers are facing,” the senator continued.  The budget is at the top of everyone’s mind this week, and I want to assure those tireless volunteers and service-providers in New Jersey that I will continue to fight tirelessly for the critical funding they need to help prevent sexual violence and protect sexual assault survivors.”

Sen. Menendez asked the advocates about the growing fear of victims to report rape and sexual assault, especially in immigrant communities in the wake of the Trump Administration’s executive orders and stepped-up enforcement efforts, and how the federal government can be more responsive in the area of sexual assault prevention. 

“The FBI recognizes rape as the second most violent crime, the first of which is murder. We need our elected officials to appreciate the impact and prevalence of sexual violence in our communities.  We need them to understand the nuanced issues that influence the provision of services at the local level.  We need them to listen to us, the experts that dedicate our lives to building a more equitable and just society,” said Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of NJCASA.  “We appreciate that in Senator Menendez we have a compassionate leader representing our needs at the federal level.”


In 2016, over 10,000 New Jersey residents received counseling from a local rape crisis center. These agencies, comprised mostly of highly-trained volunteers, provide free, confidential services and are available 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year while operating on average annual budgets of less than $400,000.


Local advocates participating in the call with the senator and NJCASA member organizations included:


  • Patricia Teffenhart       NJCASA
  • Nicole D. Bearce         NJCASA
  • Jackie DeVore             NJCASA
  • Linda Locke                 NJCASA
  • Marissa Marzano        NJCASA
  • Sue Levine                  180 Turning Lives Around
  • Claire T. Galiano         Cape May County Coalition Against Rape and Abuse
  • Mary Love                   Center for Family Services Empowering Rights of Victims


  • Nancy LaBoy               Center for Family Services Empowering Rights of Victims


  • Julie Berry                   Center for Family Services Empowering Rights of Victims


  • Micheily Mercado        Center for Family Services Empowering Rights of Victims (SERV)
  • Yanishka Jean-Pierre  CONTACT of Burlington County
  • Theresa Tobey            CONTACT of Burlington County
  • Pamela Drager            Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Warren


  • Jill Zinckgraf                Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Warren


  • Jamie Bernard             Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Intervention Services (DASI)
  • Christine Ferro-Saxon Family Service League
  • Nastassia Fleischer      Hudson SPEAKS Against Sexual Violence
  • Opal Burke-Jackson    Hudson SPEAKS Against Sexual Violence
  • Jeanne Manchin          Middlesex County Center for Empowerment
  • Quarticha Perkins        Passaic County Women's Center
  • Barbara Bates             SAFE in Hunterdon
  • Lori Davenport Salem County Women's Services
  • Erika Oden, LCSW      St. Francis Counseling Service
  • Claudia Ratzlaff           The Women's Center
  • Sharon Levy                Taking Tea InStyle
  • Laura Luciano             Rutgers Univ. Office of Violence Prevention & Victim Assistance
  • Alison Daks                 Womanspace, Inc.
  • Christie Howley           Zufall Health Center


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 the last Congress, he was also an original cosponsor of the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), 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.