SILVER SPRING, MD. MCASA’s Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI), a statewide legal services program, and Heartly House, the rape crisis and domestic violence program for Frederick County, Maryland, were among the programs highlighted by the White House last week. The Office of the Vice President issued “1 is 2 Many, 20 years Fighting Violence Against Women and Girls” to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. SALI and Heartly House were included as examples of programs using VAWA funding to help survivors. The full report can be found at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/2014_vawa_report.pdf.
SALI, the Sexual Assault Legal Institute, is one of the only legal services programs in the country devoted solely to helping survivors of sexual assault and child sexual abuse. The White House report described its work, “Held up as a model for programs across the country, SALI offers comprehensive representation, including to children – running the gamut from protection orders, custody and divorce proceedings, U-Visa applications, and education, employment and housing disputes. At SALI, a survivor typically has one attorney for all matters: she is not handed off to an ever-changing group of lawyers nor forced to recount her story again and again. Since its inception, SALI has served over 1500 clients.” SALI is a division of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Heartly House, an MCASA member program, is included in the White House report with these words: “In addition to shelter and counseling, Heartly House operates a 24-hour hotline, provides survivors with legal aid (from protection orders through divorce proceedings), runs an offender group counseling program, and has a child psychologist on staff to work with kids who’ve witnessed abuse. Heartly House partners with a regional hospital to provide advocacy and support for survivors during forensic exams, which can last up to five hours.” The House of Ruth Maryland, a Maryland domestic violence program was also highlighted in the report.
Vice President Biden drew together women’s rights advocates from across the country to reflect on progress made and plan for the future. Congressional leaders and national advocacy groups also gathered to observe VAWA’s anniversary. MCASA’s executive director, Lisae C. Jordan, attended the events, noting that, “We are grateful for the recognition for SALI and Heartly House and for the ability to help survivors. At the same time, Maryland sexual assault and domestic violence programs continue to be underfunded and stretched to the breaking point. As we acknowledge all that has been accomplished, we also look to the future and encourage our leaders to devote the funding needed to help every survivor and stop future violence.”