#MeToo, and Who is Funding Sexual Assault Prevention?

The NFL supports Raliance, one of the newest organizations in the fight to end sexual harassment and assault. Raliance’s campaign, #itsonus, is helping to educate the public about how to take responsibility for consensual sex.

Yes, me, too. I’ll spare you the details. The larger point for me is that being a survivor of sexual harassment and abuse, I chose to build part of my professional life around helping survivors to heal, and fight for justice. And I have done so. Over the past 20 years, I have treated hundreds of sexual assault survivors and their families. I have helped people achieve justice, and I have also seen many survivors choose not to engage with the justice system for fear of being further traumatized. Sadly, that fear is not unrealistic.

Who are the funders helping us to make progress on ending sexual assault and harassment, and will we see an increase in funding for this sorely neglected area of philanthropy? I would particularly like to see more resources for women who are before the court, to support them in finding a way to safely testify, so we can know more about abuse and figure out better ways to prevent it.

Before we talk about some of the funders, let’s look at some of the larger nonprofits that are working this terrain.

Large Nonprofit Organizations Fighting Sexual Assault

Raliance: One of the newest initiatives on the scene is Raliance, which was created using a $10 million funding commitment from the National Football League. Raliance.org now serves as the central hub for three top organizations in the country working to end sexual violence: the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA)-PreventConnect and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV).

Stop It Now! This organization has received funding from several sources, but one important source of their funding has been Sue Paterno, widow of Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno. (Quick review of the backstory: Joe Paterno was head coach for football at Penn State when assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was committing his crimes against children. Shortly after Sandusky’s arrest in 2011, Paterno wrote in his journal that he hoped something good could come of it all, implying that he hoped the “silver lining” of the crisis would be increased awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse.) 

Since 2012, Sue Paterno and other members of the Paterno family have been working with Stop It Now! to develop Circles of Safety for Higher Education, a program to combat child sexual victimization. With $230,000 in funding from the Paternos, Stop it Now! worked with nearly 150 college staff members from across Pennsylvania’s 14 state university systems, training them in child sexual abuse prevention. These 150 then went on to train another 2,000 staff, creating what the university hopes is a safer environment across the system, where children under 18 are less likely to be abused.

Stop it Now! has been around since 1992 and was founded by Fran Henry, a child sexual abuse survivor. At that time, very few child sexual abuse prevention programs existed. Since then, Stop it Now! has made great strides in identifying, refining and sharing effective ways to prevent child sexual abuse before children are harmed.

Funders for Sexual Assault Prevention and Education

Currently, much of the funding for child sexual abuse prevention comes from state or regional community foundations such as Meyer Memorial Trust in Oregon, the California Endowment, and the New York Community Trust. Women’s Funds in many cities and states also provide support for sexual abuse prevention and education.

Alongside these community foundations and women’s funds, a handful of nationally-focused private foundations also cover this ground. (As a caveat, this list is by no means exhaustive, but focuses on some of the largest and most consistent funders over time.)

NoVo Foundation: One private foundation that has put serious money toward this issue is the NoVo Foundation, which gave a total of $5 million between 2009 and 2012 to the Ms. Foundation for Women to support a project called Child Sexual Abuse: A Social Justice Prevention Model.

One of the largest contributions NoVo has made in recent years on sexual abuse and assault is a $3.3 million grant to Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in 2015 in project support for Just Beginnings, a child sexual abuse donor collaborative.

In 2015, NoVo also gave the American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education $75,000 for the purpose of project support for its Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Also in 2015, it gave the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault $100,000 to general operating support. NoVo also gave the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Assault two grants in 2015 — one for $75,000 in general operating support and another for $257,500 for project support End Demand Illinois. NoVo also gave $90,000 to City University of New York for its Sexual Violence in War Project, Women’s Political Voices.

NoVo also provided support in 2015 for SOARS (Story of a Rape Survivor), the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition, and several other initiatives in Vermont, California, Florida, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania.

Oak Foundation: The Oak Foundation has been particularly supportive of Stop it Now! Founded in 1983, the Oak Foundation is international, with 64 employees in offices in Belize, Bulgaria, India, the U.K., Switzerland, and the U.S. (To apply for funding with the Oak Foundation, you need to first review the Child Abuse program, and send a letter of inquiry.)

The Oak Foundation began funding Stop It Now! in 2008 with an initial grant of $174,460 for “collaborating to strengthen child sexual abuse prevention efforts in low- and middle-income countries.” Also in 2008, the Oak Foundation provided a second grant for $349,792, for Stop it Now! to take its knowledge and policy experience on child sexual abuse in the U.S. and bring it to a global audience, establishing an active policy presence internationally on the issue.

In 2010, a larger grant from the Oak Foundation to Stop it Now! took aim at both national and global agendas. With $373,573 over 24 months, the goal of this grant was to “improve the Child Sexual Abuse prevention capacity (e.g. knowledge, prevention tools, strategies, professional connections) of family and child- serving professionals in selected low and middle income countries, and at local and state levels in the US.”

In 2013, Stop It Now! received $500,000 from the Oak Foundation “to provide core support to build organisational capacity.” In other words, time to take this program to scale and get this vital information disseminated nationally and globally.

Avon Foundation: While domestic violence and sexual assault can be separate issues, the two often overlap, so it’s important to talk about the Avon Foundation’s contributions in this arena. The Avon Foundation has been particularly instrumental in funding the domestic violence hotlines nationally. In 2015, it partnered with the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) to grant $500,000 to 25 local domestic violence advocacy programs in cities across the U.S., to staff hotlines to respond to domestic violence survivors. 

Through its Speak Out About Domestic Violence program, Avon has been taking aim at domestic violence in important ways for over a decade. This initiative works to build awareness, educate, and improve prevention and direct service programs for domestic violence. As of 2014, the initiative has contributed $40 million to the cause of domestic violence prevention. 

The Avon Foundation also funds the NO MÁS survey, the largest and most comprehensive study to date of domestic violence and sexual assault in the U.S. Latino community. Released in April 2015, this survey found that domestic violence and sexual assault are widespread in the U.S. Latino community, and victims face even more barriers than the general population when trying to escape the cycle of violence.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Another funder in this area is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which gave $500,000 in 2011 to the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center to “support the Network of Treatment Providers Collaborative Project in expanding mental health treatment for victims of child sexual abuse.”

Ms. Foundation for Women: The Ms. Foundation for Women has done some of the cornerstone research on sexual assault and abuse as a grantee of the NoVo Foundation. It also funds community-based organizations fighting this issue, particularly with an intersectional focus that also recognizes race and sexual orientation as part of the picture.

VNA Foundation: On a smaller scale, the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center also received $50,000 from the VNA Foundation in 2014 for the purpose of addressing “the critical need for victims of child sexual abuse and their families to access mental health services in a timely manner.”


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Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work in Cranston, Rhode Island, and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

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