Gov. Newsom, please approve ongoing funding for life-saving crime victim services | Opinion

Nobody should have to navigate traumatic, dangerous situations alone in the wake of sexual or domestic violence. Yet due to a shortfall in funding for victims’ services programs, hundreds of thousands of survivors are at risk of having to do just that.

Because of this funding, Courtney, a woman with autism who was sexually assaulted at age 25, was able to access supportive services in her community. Courtney’s world was shattered in the aftermath of her experience, especially because she trusted the person who harmed her.

Sexual violence disproportionately impacts people with developmental disabilities, and Courtney’s family worked hard to protect her by maintaining a close circle of trusted friends and family.

Courtney and her family turned to Lumina Alliance, which serves sexual and domestic violence survivors in San Luis Obispo County. Courtney connected with a therapist at Lumina Alliance immediately.


Annually, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) enables thousands of Californians like Courtney who are experiencing sexual and domestic violence to access essential services — including safety planning, counseling services and safe housing.

Due to a funding shortfall from VOCA, which will result in a 44.7% reduction in these vital services here in California, thousands of survivors might have to endure months of waiting for help.

What would have happened if Courtney had been placed on a months-long waiting list?

Legislature supports funding

We are leading a coalition of survivors and advocates from nearly 400 organizations warning of dire consequences if these cuts occur.

With over half of the California Legislature expressing support for state funding to avert cuts, the Legislature released its Joint Legislative Budget Plan, which includes $103 million in ongoing funding to sustain crime victim services.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has not yet agreed to the plan. And unless he agrees to this funding, we’ll see more self-harm among sexual assault survivors, who are making passionate pleas.

In one video posted to Instagram, Tammy from Riverside told her story: “Almost 16 years ago, I was abducted, sexually assaulted and beaten. If I didn’t have an advocate with me at the hospital, I would have left the hospital and I would have ended up committed suicide. After a woman is sexually assaulted, what’s next for her if you guys don’t fund these programs?”

Homicide rates could rise

We’re also bracing for higher homicide rates. Life-threatening abuse requires help at a moment’s notice, and reduced services or organizational closures will endanger survivors and their loved ones.

An advocate serving Coachella Valley at Shelter from the Storm shared one survivor’s situation. She feared that if she left her partner he would find her and kill her, leaving “those little girls without a mommy.” With the advocate’s support, she and her daughters stayed at the shelter and soon moved into an apartment. Without funding, more people will die in these situations.

Newsom has highlighted his efforts to preserve core services and ensure that our communities are safe and protected. Including ongoing funding for crime victim services is directly in keeping with these goals. Based on date from Fiscal Year 21-22, $103 million in ongoing funding represents a modest investment of $130 per person served by VOCA-funded programs. Yet these services provide immense benefits of safety and healing for survivors.

Advocates will demand this funding until the budget is finalized.

Last week, 300 survivors participated in a die-in outside of Newsom’s office. How many more times will they have to show up at the capitol and relive their trauma to defend their right for support?

Sandra Henriquez is the CEO of the non-profit organization, VALOR, formerly the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Krista Colón is the senior director of public policy and communications strategies for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.