FY18 Budget: Sexual Violence Funding Fully Restored
(but not without some Jersey “flair”)

In the end, New Jersey’s FY18 State Budget includes a total of $4.1M for sexual violence – a full restoration of last year’s appropriations. However, this year’s budget advocacy required a particularly nuanced approach. As a showdown between the Governor and the legislature led to a government shutdown, critical funding for sexual violence services hung in the balance.

NJCASA remained focused on articulating the impact budget cuts would have on survivors and those who serve them. In an email to NJCASA’s membership on July 1, executive director Patricia Teffenhart wrote, “I am not concerned with the politics of the Governor or the legislature and I am taking no position on the ‘Horizon issue’ – they have plenty of well-payed lobbyists working on their behalf. You guys have me and I’m doing all I can to get on record, set the stage, and hold legislators accountable.”

At a Statehouse press conference later that day, Teffenhart emphasized the impact a budget veto would have on sexual violence services in New Jersey, “We are guaranteed to need waiting lists. We are guaranteed to reduce staff on hotlines… Giving survivors timely access to free and confidential counseling is essential.” During the press conference, Teffenhart indicated that over the last year, New Jersey’s sexual violence service organizations provided counseling to over 10,000 sexual assault survivors and their loved ones.

In an op-ed co-authored with Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Teffenhart articulated the critical nature of issue, “This isn’t about partisan politics. It’s about reality, and it would be a harsh reality if rape survivors – victims of what the FBI recognizes as the second most violent crime, the first being murder – would lose the services they so desperately need.”

Appropriations in the state budget support the work of New Jersey’s twenty-one county-based sexual violence service organizations and NJCASA as they provide crucial services throughout New Jersey, including counseling, crisis response, community outreach and prevention efforts, and hotline support, among others

Statistics indicate that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. As the national discourse around the impact and prevalence of sexual violence increases, so has the understanding of the needs of sexual assault survivors and the complex ways in which lives are impacted by this trauma. New Jersey’s FY18 budget allows providers to better meet the needs of survivors and their loved ones.