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Advocates for Victims of Sexual Assault Applaud Focus on Prevention in New Federal Law

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette via AP)

DES MOINES, IA (Radio Iowa) Iowans who are advocates for victims of sexual assault say they’re pleased the re-authorized Violence Against Women Act includes money for prevention efforts as well as services for victims. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst hosted an event today (Thursday) to hear from Iowans who work with sexual assault survivors.

“We have actually increased the authorization that will be going to these specific programs that address prevention,” Ernst says. The updated Violence Against Women Act provides new housing protections for victims as well as new investment in culturally-specific programs. Tiahni Carrasco is a sexual assault prevention specialist with Amani Community Services, working with black middle school students in Waterloo.

“It’s important for survivors, but it’s also important that we stop it before it’s happening,” she says. “That middle school age is a primary target for sexual assaults happening.” Mira Yusef is executive director of Monsoon, an origination with offices in Des Moines and Iowa City that works to end human trafficking and violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders.
“Prevention is so crucial,” she says. “Man and boys who mostly are the perpetrators, the harm-doers of sexual violence…How do we prevent that?…How can we then extend that to the elementary school age, to the middle school, to have the discussion about healthy relationships?” Kellie Markey is the founder of Dorothy’s House, a residential home for victims of human trafficking. She says pornography is distorting what young people, in particular, view as a healthy behavior.

“It literally changes the way people, and children especially, view what sexual relationships are supposed to look like and what’s o.k. to do in those environments,” she says. “Every child in our community is presented and pushed porn by the time they’re in fifth grade, at the latest, and it’s starting create trends that we see in the normalization of these behaviors against people that are going to be a bigger and bigger problem.” Markey was among more than a dozen people Senator Ernst invited to a roundtable discussion of the Violence Against Women Act. A month ago, President Biden approved a bipartisan plan to reauthorize the law for five more years.

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