Santa Clara County leaders want $5-million to improve services for sex assault survivors

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Part of Building a Better Bay Area relies on how community leaders respond to community needs.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez will ask her colleagues to set aside $5-million in reserve for gender-based violence services across the county. The money would help survivors of rape and other sex and abuse crimes.

"In our community, the way we've dealt with that for a very long time is we fund the jails, we fund the District Attorney, we fund the punishment side of this," Supervisor Chavez told ABC7 News. "What we're not funding, at a high enough rate, is the prevention, the intervention and the services that often victims need."

RELATED: Santa Clara County reshaping response to sexual assault and abuse crimes

She specified, "Counseling, going through the court system, restraining orders, all of that. Legal services, mental health services."

In April, ABC7 News was there as County and San Jose City leaders joined medical professionals and law enforcement to discuss reshaping the county's response to those crimes.

The reserve fund would take support for survivors a step further. It would provide money to the county's community advocates and non-profit partners.

"This matters in a huge way, this is big," YWCA Silicon Valley CEO, Tanis Crosby said. "That for the first time, there might be funding for sexual assault services in the County of Santa Clara."

"The county doesn't yet fund any sexual assault survivor services at all in the community," Crosby continued. "So, right now, the YWCA receives zero in sexual assault services in our community."

"We can't fail survivors," Crosby said. "We've got to be here and we've got to work towards making sure that the support systems and that the support services are in place."

Supervisor Chavez said part of the reason she's pushing for this funding at a county level is so Santa Clara County can make this a community-based approach to changing the way people treat each other.

Chavez told ABC7 News, the county must fund not only the prosecution of suspects but the healing of survivors.

Advocates agree, and say it's time.

TAKE ACTION: Get help with sexual assault, rape, and abuse

Last week, Alabama lawmakers approved one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S. The decision made nearly every form of abortion illegal without exceptions for rape and incest.

"That means, for me, that we have an even higher obligation to create safe environments for women in our community," Chavez said. "Because whether they're women from here or women who come from other places to make sure they get their reproductive health rights and needs met, we're going to be ready to stand with them."

Crosby added, "We commend the politicians who are stepping forward and saying, 'You know what, in Santa Clara County, we're going to do something different.' Across America, that may not be the case, but here in our community, we are standing up for survivors."

She said the YWCA has certainly seen the demand increase and hopes that's because more people are receiving more help.

Tuesday's decision by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will impact any level of support for gender-based violence services.

"We hope that the Board of Supervisors will say yes. Yes, ending gender-based violence is important. Yes, we are committed to making sure that survivors have access to the services that they need and deserve. And that yes, we are committed to working towards ending and responding to and preventing gender-based violence," Crosby said.

If approved on Tuesday, Supervisor Chavez said the goal would be to have that money back into the community within six months.

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