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Maintaining a Long-term Public Policy Strategy for the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement

by Diane Moyer, Esq. Legal Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape

This article was originally published in ReShape, Issue #5, March 2002

  • Forge ties with allied organizations.
  • Sexual violence is not a partisan issue; it’s everyone’s issue.
  • Be proactive not reactive, “good cases make bad law.”
  • Cultivate relationships with House and Senate leadership and staff.
  • Establish and maintain a formidable public policy committee within the coalition.
  • Listen to victims.
  • Be respectful and responsive to media.
  • Constituents are the best agents for legislative advocacy; local rape crisis centers are critical players in moving the legislative agenda.
  • Know when to negotiate; incremental progress is sometimes preferable to no progress.
  • Remain true to your mission; it is your best barometer for appropriate legislative action.
  • Don’t forget the “big” picture, if legislation is enacted or pending in other states, it may persuade a legislator in your state.
  • Back up your advocacy with statistics, anecdotes.
  • Stand ready to rebut the opposition’s arguments.
  • Know your “roots,” the legislative history of sexual offense laws in your state.
  • Be visible; attend legislative hearings, committee meetings, and breakfasts.

Previous to my current position as Legal Director, I was the Public Policy Director for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape for four years. I have had the benefit of a strong state coalition, which engaged in tremendous legislative struggle and progress prior to my tenure. What I concentrated on is making the Coalition’s policy work connect with other organizations.

Our coalition is rarely in the position of being the only organization advocating for a particular piece of legislation. This collective effort is essential in making advocacy viable. Our coalition regularly consults with our sister domestic violence coalition on legislative issues. Also, in keeping with the tenets of the “STOP” funding and training, we cultivate a good relationship with law enforcement and prosecution on legislative issues. The collaborative process requires meetings, consensus and negotiation, but is, I believe, critical in getting a timely and effective legislative response to victims’ issues.

Every coalition also needs to be familiar with and tout the passage of the Violence Against Women Act and the national recognition of the problem of violence and an appropriate legislative response. Every state can and should use the national example to craft laws that protect victims and fund programs that prevent violence against our vulnerable populations.

The final key elements to maintaining a long-term public policy strategy for the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement must occur within your coalition. Ensure that public policy is a part of your coalition’s strategic planning process. Make legislative advocacy at least palatable and hopefully exciting to everyone in the organization. Remember- and remind your staff- that a legislative response to sexual violence is fundamental to social change.