Sexual Assault Victims Want Services Tailored to Their Needs

Mary Koss

Executive Summary

For decades, prosecutors and advocates strove to make the criminal legal system more victim-centered. This resulted in more money being funneled towards prosecutions and policing as well as laws that now require harsher penalties and more regular notifications for victims. But it has also produced, paradoxically, a downgrading of social services, counseling, medical care, and other services that victims need to feel whole.

This is most evident in sexual assault prosecutions. Historically under-enforced, victims’ advocates pushed for greater criminal penalties and policies that were pro-arrest and pro-prosecution in an attempt to keep victims safe and wrongdoers accountable. But these policies have not helped. And the harms to women of color and women who identify as LGBTQ have only increased—a byproduct of increased policing.

As community leaders around the country push plans to defund the police, advocates and victims are driving forward proposals that give victims a voice to help shape their own options for justice, rather than treating them as tools of the prosecution. By offering victim-centered methods of accountability, like restorative justice, communities can both decrease reliance on policing and create a system where victims’ voices are placed center stage, where they can feel comfortable asking for what they need without fear of negative repercussions.

  • Voters support alternative approaches, including mental health counseling and trauma-related services according to a recent poll conducted by Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute.
  • 69% of survey respondents, including over 60% of those identifying as Republican and 72% of women, would support victims’ services being made available to those who choose not to report to law enforcement.
  • 58% of all respondents supported drawing funding for victims’ services from law enforcement funds.
Sexual Assault Victims Want Services Tailored to Their Needs
Sexual Assault Victims Want Services Tailored to Their Needs