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Community Commentary Opinion

Opinion: The next step for #MeToo is early prevention

By John Van Cleef

While the #MeToo movement brought unprecedented attention to the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, there has been little attention given to to prevent harassment from happening in the first place.

While Cal OES distributes federal funds from the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, California’s general fund provides no funding for sexual assault prevention and only $45,000 in ongoing state-wide funding for domestic violence prevention programs.

The prevalence of domestic abuse requires a multi-layered response in which early prevention is key.

As Executive Director of Community Resource Center, I have seen the devastating effects of domestic violence and sexual assault on families and children who live at our shelter.

As we care for those healing from abuse, I continually ask the question, “Are we doing enough to prevent assault and violence from happening in our community?”

And I constantly struggle with the answer, “Not yet.”

Research shows us that 1 in 3 girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure far exceeding rates of other types of youth violence.

It also tells us that violent behavior often begins between the ages of 12 and 18, and that the severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases when the pattern of abuse started in adolescence.

Schools provide a unique opportunity to deliver large-scale prevention education to the best audience of young people who are forming new and more relationships outside of their homes.

CRC offers a Peer-to-Peer model of education at North County schools, providing intensive training to students who, in turn, teach their peers about safe dating through a coordinated school-wide effort.

Of the 1,823 students that participated in the program in 2017-2018, 94% of students reported they had increased awareness of dating violence and signs of abusive relationships because of this effort.

But the answer is still “not yet” because each year we’re only able to work with a small number of the area schools simply due to limited funding.

The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault are asking Governor Newsom and the State Legislature to allocate $50 million for prevention programs statewide. With this funding, we can reach more young people with prevention education in more schools.

This is an opportunity for Governor Newsom and the State Legislature to lead the way in creating social change that enhances the health and safety of millions of Californians.

Domestic Violence costs our country $460 billion a year. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 5.78 million California women and men experience intimate partner violence each year and the costs and risks are huge.

Between 2013 and 2017, North County San Diego saw a 14% increase in the number of domestic violence incidents (SANDAG 2018) reported to police.

You can help reverse this trend by supporting additional funding for prevention education. Please sign the petition to urge Governor Newsom to support $50 million in ongoing funding to end sexual and domestic violence at: bit.ly/dvpetitionca

Until we strengthen our investment in prevention programs, we will continue to see high rates of victimization, trauma and an ongoing need for services.

Healthy relationships in safe homes surrounded by a caring community can overcome sexual and domestic violence.

California has the opportunity to set a national example through an ongoing commitment to prevention.

John Van Cleef is the Executive Director at Community Resource Center and a resident of Carlsbad. 

About Community Resource Center:

Established in 1979, Community Resource Center (CRC) is a nonprofit organization that helps those who are hungry, homeless and hurting in North San Diego County. CRC provides housing assistance and case management; a domestic violence shelter, domestic violence prevention education, transitional housing and hotline; nutritional food distribution; and counseling. Participants receive support to create paths to safety, stability and self-sufficiency. For more information, please visit crcncc.org.

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