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Read our latest newsletter: February 2017.

COALITION: FOLLOW GUV'S LEAD ON "HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS" GRANTS

By Colin A. Young

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 27, 2019.....Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against sexual and domestic violence, called upon the Legislature Wednesday to follow Gov. Charlie Baker's lead and boost funding for a program that seeks to prevent sexual or domestic violence by teaching teens about healthy relationships.

The current year's budget allocated $150,000 for the Healthy Relationships Grant Program, but Baker's fiscal year 2020 budget proposal (H 1) would increase the prevention program's line item to $1 million.

"This is our big request, that the Legislature -- that the House and the Senate -- include this million dollars in your budget," Jane Doe Inc. policy director Maureen Gallagher said at a briefing for elected officials and staff Wednesday. "It is a very exciting time to be able to see a commitment and investment by the administration in recognizing that we really have to get at the root causes of sexual and domestic violence and prevent them."

She added, "All the service dollars in the world, while we need them, aren't going to address this issue if we can't focus on prevention."

Nearly one in two women and one in four men in Massachusetts experience sexual violence victimization other than rape, Jane Doe Inc. said. One in three women and one in five men in Massachusetts experience physical violence, rape and/or stalking by an intimate partner, the organization said. Last year, 15 women were killed in domestic violence homicides in Massachusetts.

Gallagher said that $1 million in funding would allow Jane Doe and service providers to "build partnerships with the Department of Public Health, community-based rape crisis centers, domestic violence programs to really develop and implement evidence-informed prevention strategies in all communities across the commonwealth."

Public awareness campaign

Led by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, state officials are preparing this spring to launch the first public awareness campaign around sexual assault and domestic violence in nearly 20 years.

The campaign, an initiative of the Governor's Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, is expected to be aimed at middle school and high school students between the ages of 12 and 18, with a secondary audience of parents, caregivers and coaches. It will focus on healthy relationships -- including both friendships and romantic relationships.

Polito said in December that the campaign's message will aim to "help early teens and older teens that might be struggling with what's appropriate or not to develop strategies and also a better context around respect and what is acceptable."

Gallagher said Jane Doe Inc. is also asking that the Legislature maintain level funding of the other two line items that fund its services, especially that it maintains the recent $3 million increase in the line item that funds community-based rape crisis centers.

"Our request of level funding does not mean that there are not still areas of great need," she said of the state's 17 rape crisis centers. "They continue to be underfunded and they continue to have increased requests for services, particularly in the last year and a half when more and more folks have been talking about sexual violence."

Jane Doe is backing legislation this session addressing sexual violence on higher education campuses, providing for medically-accurate and LGBTQ-inclusive sex education in schools, eliminating a public benefits cap related to the number of children in a family and the so-called Safe Communities Act.

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