NJCASA Honors Programs And Partners For Their Contribution To End Sexual Violence

On September 23rd, NJCASA held their first annual September Celebration to highlight the efforts made by the state coalition, county sexual violence centers, and allied professionals that work towards supporting survivors of sexual violence and creating safer communities throughout the state.

Fifty guests arrived at the Salt Creek Grille in Princeton to share their stories, achievements, and goals in the movement to diminish the prevalence of sexual violence.

NJCASA is the statewide advocacy and capacity building organization that represents the twenty-one county-based sexual violence centers, and the Rutgers University Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance. At the event NJCASA Executive Director, Patricia Teffenhart, credited the direct work with survivors of sexual violence at these centers as the driving force of the coalition.

“These narratives are what fuel us to make sure we do more, work harder, and continue to support an infrastructure that rejects rape culture, believes survivors, and ensures an appropriate response from the systems that influence outcomes for survivors and perpetrators,” Teffenhart said at the Celebration.

[Left to Right: Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, NJCASA ED Patricia Teffenhart, NJCASA Board Chair Julia McClure, DCF Commissioner Allison Blake. Photo © Kristen Driscoll Photography]

Leaders in the anti-violence movement were honored for their dedication. Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-6th of Cherry Hill), chair of the Assembly Women and Children’s Committee, spoke at the event about this year’s achievements. The Committee helped advance the restraining order bill A-2640, which is intended to offer restraining orders to survivors of sexual assault, regardless of conviction. On September 15th, A-2640 passed unanimously in the Assembly. Assemblywoman Lampitt credited the success on the cooperation of many legislators and organizations.

“It’s about relationships and finding the right people to bring you the issues. (Executive Director) Patricia is ready, full of facts, and powerful when she relays the message,” said Lampitt.

Commissioner Allison Blake of the Department of Children and Families was presented with the Survivors’ Champion Award. Under Commissioner Blake, sexual assault prevention programs have received an increase in funding and the Division on Women has received incomparable support. Through her recognition of the issue, Commissioner Blake has sent a message that NJCASA and the sexual violence centers should be valued and empowered.

While accepting the award, Commissioner Blake also commended the collaboration between NJCASA and stakeholders like the Department of Children and Families. “What we’re seeing over the course of the last several months is the fruits of a really wonderful and growing partnership. NJCASA, behind the scenes, educates us about important issues and concerns,” said Blake.

The evening started with the launch of the new NJCASA logo and ended with a toast to the accomplishments New Jersey has reached in the field. In June the 2015 State Budget for sexual violence services increased by $400,000, the largest line item ever received. With the addition, $1.3 million will be allocated to the services that NJCASA and the county rape crisis centers provide to the community. In July, in response to a request from NJCASA, the Attorney General issued a directive that expands the retention time of evidence collected from sexual assault medical examinations to a minimum of 5 years and the opportunity for a request of indefinite storage.

“A year ago we embarked upon a plan that we hoped would give us an opportunity to celebrate tonight. And we followed that with actions to make sure we do what we do better and with more intention, with vision and passion, with commitment and conviction,” remarked Teffenhart.

All photographs © Kristen Driscoll Photography.