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The 86th legislative session is now in full swing, and lawmakers are considering many important issues affecting survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

Following a year of renewed attention to gender-based violence and harassment across the country, the TAASA and TCFV commit to working with our state leaders to properly address these issues. We are heartened that they are turning to advocates for guidance. We now have tremendous opportunities to strengthen services and legal protections for survivors in our communities. It is our time to answer the call.

Securing adequate funding for family violence and sexual assault prevention programs remains our collective priority. Your programs and services constitute the backbone of support for survivors in Texas. When facing competing funding priorities, it is imperative that legislators understand how many Texans in their districts have benefited from your work as well as the potential increase in demand for your services.

Regarding sexual assault, we must ensure that survivors’ health and safety needs guide the Legislature’s budget decisions. In practical terms, we must not only participate in high-profile discussions about rape kit testing but also advocate for additional funding for sexual assault prevention programs and improved access to SANE care. The Legislature can address all these issues effectively, but it is up to us as advocates to describe how these priorities complement one another.

Shifting the discussion to family violence, we had to turn away 41 percent of survivors seeking services due to capacity and resource constraints. In 2017, our state lost 136 women who died at the hands of their male intimate partners, and 71,000 Texans sought help at family violence centers. These three statistics underscore the need to expand services for Texas’ growing population and respond to the critical safety needs of survivors. The voices of advocates are necessary to show legislators the landscape of family violence and amplify the need for resources to keep Texans safe.

In your Capitol Day materials, you will find messaging guidance, suggested key points to convey about your community, and location information for your representatives’ offices. We encourage you to review the materials in advance of your legislative meetings. The TAASA and TCFV policy staff are on hand to discuss any questions you may have. In addition, please remember to complete our feedback survey after your meetings. We will use the information you provide to follow up on your conversations.

There is political will at the capitol to support survivors, and we are fortunate to have strong allies in leadership. However, achieving significant gains will depend on the work of advocates right now. Our political leaders are looking to you for guidance.