New Mexico’s legal desert affects victims of violence

While the federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act will ensure services for victims for several more years, victims will likely still struggle due to New Mexico’s “legal desert.”

VAWA] provides funding to state and local programming and agencies to help those who suffer gender-based violence. The U.S. Congress last reauthorized it in 2013. President Joe Biden signed the 2022 reauthorization this spring and it is expected to help with issues such as sex trafficking, missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives, sexual assault and housing and it expands programming to include the LGBTQIA+ community. Related: What the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization means for the LGBTQ community

New Mexico ranks as seventh in the nation for the rate of sexual assault. Alexandria Taylor, director of Sexual Assault Services at the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said one factor in what she has called a “crisis” is New Mexico’s legal desert. The majority of victims don’t report but for those who do, Taylor told NM Political Report that 93 percent of the cases are dismissed.