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BILLINGS – The Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana join survivors, advocates, and communities nationwide in April to observe Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Sexual violence is far too prevalent, and it is important to not only to raise awareness of the myriad forms of sexual violence, but to engage in meaningful prevention efforts, take action to hold offenders accountable, and care for survivors in a trauma-informed manner.

U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson joins the Department of Justice and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) in applauding the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA 2022), which treats sexual assault as the serious violation it is and creates new programs and initiatives that provide survivors of sexual violence with increased access to services and justice.

One such program is the Violence Against Women Tribal Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) program, which cross-designates tribal prosecutors as SAUSAs to support tribes and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in investigating and prosecuting cases involving sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, stalking, and certain sex trafficking offenses. VAWA 2022 also expands outreach to survivors in under served communities, including by improving access to sexual assault medical forensic examinations for survivors in rural areas, providing community-specific services for LGBT survivors, and restoring tribes’ jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators of sexual violence and sex trafficking, among certain other offenses committed on tribal lands.

“Sexual violence has no place in society, yet it is a real, horrible and under-reported crime, especially in our tribal communities. All individuals, women, men and children, deserve to be safe from violence, including sexual violence. This office will continue to seek justice for victims by prosecuting and holding offenders accountable and supports healing and recovery for survivors while strengthening prevention and education efforts,” U.S. Attorney Johnson said.

“During Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and every month, OVW-funded programs across the nation provide essential services to survivors of sexual assault, responding to their needs, helping them heal, and supporting them as they pursue the justice they seek,” said OVW Principal Deputy Director Allison Randall. “The impact of sexual violence is felt by the entire community and can devastate survivors’ lives, which is why it is critical that VAWA 2022 strengthens not just services and justice interventions but also prevention.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2015 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey:

Statistics state 43.6 percent of women and 24.8 percent of men have experienced contact sexual violence, 21.3 percent of women and 2.6 percent of men reported being raped or subject to attempted rape in their lifetime, 37 percent of women and 17.9 percent of men have experienced unwanted sexual contact.

And according to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) study on Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Men, American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people face disproportionate levels of violence, including sexual assault. Approximately 56.1 percent of AI/AN women and 27.5 percent of AI/AN men report experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime, with many of these assaults at the hands of non-Indian perpetrators.

OVW funds resources in every jurisdiction, please see this website which lists OVW FY21 awards by state. In 2021, OVW awarded $7.1 million in grants to 11 organizations/resources in Montana for survivors of sexual assault.

OVW provides leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to reduce violence through the implementation of the Violence Against Women Act and subsequent legislation. Created in 1995, OVW administers financial and technical assistance to communities across the country that are developing programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. In addition to overseeing federal grant programs, OVW undertakes initiatives in response to special needs identified by communities facing acute challenges. Learn more at http://www.justice.gov/ovw.

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced sexual violence, you are not alone and there are many services available to help, including the Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), and the StrongHearts Native Helpline, 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483).

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