Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 19, 2017 and has been updated to include more organizations and funders addressing sexual assault prevention.
In the age of #MeToo, it will probably come as little surprise to learn that I am also a survivor of sexual assault. I don’t want to go into the details here (if you want the full story on that, you can watch this video). When I became a social worker, I chose to build my professional life around helping survivors both heal and fight for justice. Over the past 25 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 US non-profits that are working this terrain.
8/3/21 Editor’s Update: Big news in this area of funding as one of the $4 million grant recipients of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge is Sonya Passi’s FreeFrom! We featured Sonya Passi in our COVID 19 Special Edition: Women’s Leadership Matters! More about this and the other winners of the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge to come!
Large Nonprofit Organizations Fighting Sexual Assault
Alliance for HOPE International
Alliance for HOPE International is one of the leading organizations in the US that is focused on the needs of survivors of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, and human trafficking. The organization is home to several projects working to help survivors of all different ages including Camp Hope America, which provides children with mentors and peers that support and heal, the Family Justice Center Alliance, which creates networks of Family Justice Centers across the country. This organization also provides support to VOICES Survivor Networks — communities for survivors supporting each other, sharing their stories, and growing their strengths in recovery. Its Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention works to improve knowledge for healthcare professionals supporting victims of violence, enhance awareness of strangulation as a common and lethal form of domestic abuse, and increase offender accountability. Finally, its Justice Legal Network provides legal services (desperately needed) and support to victims of domestic violence and their families.
Joyful Heart Foundation
Founded by Mariska Hargitay and formerly led by Women Moving Millions Executive Director Sarah Haacke Byrd, the Joyful Heart Foundation was founded in 2004 to respond to gender-based violence and support healing and justice strategies for survivors. Joyful Heart does its work through education and advocacy and was recently instrumental in helping to pass legislation in California to end the backlog and test all rape kits.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) describes itself as “the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization”. The National Sexual Assault Hotline is run by RAINN, in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the US. RAINN also works through educational programs on sexual violence, helping survivors, and ensuring that perpetrators face justice.
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 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). RALIANCE partners with a wide range of organizations to improve the culture of those organizations and create environments free from sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse.
Rise is a survivor-led international non-profit working with lawmakers since 2014 to pass laws that create civil rights protections for survivors of sexual violence, and count 80 million survivors among the beneficiaries of the laws they have helped pass in 35 countries.. Led by Amanda Nguyen, a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Harvard graduate, and Marie Claire’s Woman of the Year recipient. Nguyen pushed for her own survivor rights as a 24 year old when she created and passed the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. A short video about Rise’s work can be found here. Rise has been working to pass a UN resolution securing access to justice for survivors over the past four years, and celebrated the announcement of a new resolution for survivors in May of 2021.
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 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 and globally-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.)
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.
Several of Channel Foundation’s programs address preventing violence against women, with the largest of these programs being the Ending Violence Against Women Initiative. Grants from this organization typically range from $2,000-30,000.
The Collective Future Fund
The Collective Future Fund “brings together social justice movements, survivors, and donors to shape a future free from sexual harassment and violence.” The Fund is sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. You can read about the Collective Future Fund’s grantmaking and funding opportunities here. Past focuses have included women of color, gender-based violence, and transgender and non-binary communities. Since the advent of COVID, Collective Future Fund has provided $2 million in funding to help survivors, who are under increased threat of violence due to economic and social problems related to COVID. In 2021, Collective Future Fund provided $11 million in grant funding to organizations fighting sexual abuse and gender-base violence.
Fund for the MeToo Movement and Allies
The Fund for the Me Too Movement and Allies was established in 2018 in partnership with Tarana Burke, #MeToo founder, in order support survivors of sexual violence. The Fund takes an inclusive approach that recognizes cis, trans, and nonbinary survivors, and is supported by funding partners including CBS (which provided $20 million in total funding for sexual abuse prevention in 2018), InFaith Community Foundation, The Nathan Cummings Foundation and The Pinpoint Foundation.
Global Fund for Women
One of the four focus areas for the Global Fund for Women is Freedom from Violence. Global Fund for Women has provided support many organizations all over the world, with its grants database showing over 2,600 organizations receiving funding worldwide to prevent gender-based violence.
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.
As of 2020, however, NoVo Foundation announced a decision to reduce its focus on this work and eliminate funding for its Ending Violence Against Girls and Women program.
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.
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.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
A primarily health-focused 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.”
Sexual Violence Research Initiative
The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) and the World Bank Group fund activities contributing to the prevention of gender based violence in low and middle-income countries. Funding Areas for SVRI are listed here. Previous grantees listed here.
The Spotlight Initiative is a global, partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate violence against women and girls by 2030. The focus of this funding is on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence/harm, femicide, trafficking in human beings, and sexual and labor exploitation. The Spotlight Initiative works in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific. Currently, a call is open until December of 2021 for grantmaking entities to apply for funds that they will then redistribute in sub-grant funds to grassroots women’s organizations. Learn more here.
Time’s Up Foundation
The TIME’S UP Foundation is the umbrella organization for several strategic nonprofits doing sexual assault prevention work. They support people to seek justice through the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, help research and address systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace through the TIME’S UP Impact Lab. The Time’s Up Foundation also supports other projects through the TIME’S UP’s industry change initiatives.
On a smaller grantmaking scale, nursing and other health funders sometimes provide support for efforts to address various forms of gender-based violence. For example, the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center 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.”