February 8, 2022

Senate committee passes bill to fully fund sexual assault services

Kendra Chamberlain

By a vote of 7-0, the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee unanimously passed SB 197, which, if passed and signed by the governor, would provide the full $5 million request for sexual assault services across the state which advocates have said is crucial.

State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City, is sponsoring SB 197. State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is a co-sponsor and spoke during the committee hearing about the importance of the request because some federal funding for sexual assault services is expected to no longer be available as of Fiscal Year 2023.

Alexandria Taylor, director of Sexual Assault Services for the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said that HB 2, the General Appropriations Act of 2022, provides $2.6 million to New Mexico Crime Victim Reparation Commission.

“We’re asking for the remaining $2.4 million to be put in,” Taylor said of SB 197.

The New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs originally asked for $5 million. Taylor called the fact that New Mexico is 7th in the nation for sexual assault a “public health crisis.”

Related: Legislators, coalition seek funding to address ‘crisis’ of sexual assault

Correa Hemphill said that 27 out of New Mexico’s 33 counties do not have adequate sexual assault services and the sexual assault nurse examiner program in the state has not received an adequate increase in state funding since its original appropriation in 2003.

State Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, asked if the state has “looked into the difference” between sexual assault attacks on Tribal and nontribal land.

He said he wanted to know if more sexual assault attacks occur when Native American women are not on Tribal land.

Taylor said the dearth of data on Native American women experiencing sexual assault is one of the reasons for this funding request.

“One reason we’re specifically trying to fund tribal research projects are the major gaps in data to understand incidents of what is happening to missing women. We need resources for the Tribal communities. We just don’t have the data,” she said.

Correa Hemphill said Native American women are 2 ½ times more likely to experience rape than any other demographic group in the U.S.

“There are no sexual assault services in Tribal lands in New Mexico,” she said.

The funding request would provide:

  • $2 million for sexual assault service providers and rape crisis centers to close a 12-to-18 month gap in services.
  • $1 million for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program to provide critical medical care after an assault.
  • $1.3 million for children advocacy centers to help child victims of sexual assault.
  • $500,000 for the operation of a state-wide sexual assault hotline.
  • $200,000 for tribal services, research and coordination.

Gallegos also asked about survivors of human trafficking.

“What part of this goes toward human trafficking in the state-wide view?” He asked.

Taylor said human trafficking is both a distinct problem and also intertwined with sexual assault and the need for those services in the state.

“We’re seeing survivors of human trafficking in our rape and child advocacy centers. It is also a crisis in our state. We need separate funding to fund human trafficking [victims]. We’re certainly seeing survivors of human trafficking,” she said.

The bill heads to the Senate Finance Committee next.