Santa Clara County May Kick in $1.7M for Rape Crisis Centers to Address Funding Shortfall

South Bay leaders are poised to boost funding for rape crisis centers to make up for a lack of state support. In his 2019-20 budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom decided not to renew $5 million in funding for such centers, leaving just $45,000 in the budget for rape crisis programs in all of California.

And so, on Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors will consider filling the financial gap for local nonprofits that offer services for victims of sexual violence.

“The governors’ decision not to fund domestic violence was surprising and disappointing,” Supervisor Susan Ellenberg says. “I am proud that our county has the opportunity right now to make it right for our residents.”

A referral from County Executive Jeff Smith’s Office going before the board this week recommends forking over $1.7 million to Community Solutions and YWCA Silicon Valley, which operate the only two rape crisis centers in the South Bay. That’s two centers for a county of more than 1.8 million people, and service providers say they can barely keep up. “Despite Santa Clara County’s extensive history of leading efforts to understand, address, and prevent intimate partner violence, tens of thousands of individuals continue to be affected,” according to the memo up for discussion Tuesday.

From 2000 to 2016, it goes on to say, the county recorded 178 domestic violence-related deaths. From the middle of 2017 to the same time last year, District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s office fielded 5,524 domestic violence case referrals and more than 20,000 calls to its 24-hour domestic violence hotline. Local shelters for victims of battering served 6,479 adults and children but turned away 2,151 because they ran out of room.

The $1.7 million pending a vote will meet the gap in state funding specifically for rape crisis centers. But it’s part of a broader initiative to bolster services for people impacted by family violence and allocate as much as $5 million for the effort through 2021.

Though they plan to request about $600,000 for the project at a future date, the DA and Sheriff’s Office will update the board on efforts to launch a pilot project to respond more effectively to victims of strangulation—a form of violence that’s a strong indicator of a perpetrator’s propensity to kill.

“[Currently], we don’t have a procedure, practice or funding for victim advocacy or medical staff to do medical examinations if you’re a victim of strangulation in Santa Clara County right now,” explains Assistant District Attorney James Gibbons-Shapiro, one of the leaders of the initiative.

According to Community Solutions, 13 percent of victims of domestic violence between August 2018 to June 2019 have reported that their intimate partner strangled them.

While victims of sexual assault undergo forensic medical examinations of their internal injuries at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, victims of domestic violence don’t undergo comparable exams to look for symptoms of strangulation.

And without forensic evidence of strangulation, Gibbons-Shapiro  says the DA can only rely on expert witnesses and the victims’ testimony in court.

“We’re not able to present photographs that were taken inside the throat to show what those injuries were,” he says. “It would be much more convincing if the jury had medical evidence to corroborate what the victim was saying. We have to prove these cases beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury.”

The DA has already started treating domestic violence cases with more urgency, according to Gibbons-Shapiro. For one, the office is now more likely to file a felony assault charge instead of a misdemeanor domestic battery, he says. That explains why the county saw an uptick in felony charges from 26 percent of domestic violence cases in 2014 to 49 percent in 2017.

“Ten years ago, [the perpetrator] would most likely have been charged for a misdemeanor violation if the victim had stated to the police officer that she had been choked out by her intimate partner,” Gibbons-Shapiro says. “And yet, the police officer looking at her neck and taking photos of her neck sees no visible injuries.”

In 2017, the DA reported that five of the nine people who committed domestic violence-related murders had a prior history of strangulation.

Also on the agenda Tuesday is a presentation by the DA’s office about its effort to establish a child advocacy center for young victims of sexual abuse. Currently, a child victim is shuttled from one place to another for interviews, forensic examinations and counseling. The proposed center will instead provide those key services under one roof, which is already protocol for child victims of mass shootings and domestic violence.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meets at 9:30am Tuesday at 70 W. Hedding St. in San Jose. Click here to read the agenda. 

Nicholas Chan is a journalist who covers politics, culture and current events in Silicon Valley. Follow him on Twitter at @nicholaschanhk.

15 Comments

  1. On May 7, 2019 a local county woman was the victim of a significant violent attack at her home by a male family member. The perpetrator is a local law enforcement with ties to local judges. The police did not arrest him. They failed to write the appropriate police report or event take pictures of injuries resulting from attack that included marks on her neck. This evidence was taken by other family members and local medical providers. The victim has requested copy of her report from the police department and DA’s ROSEN. She has not been able to obtain a copy. She also as many other victims contacted DA’s victim unit, YWCA, and other local agencies. No response from any of them to today. Once she communicated the perpetrator was a local law enforcement, the communication was tampered, no response to her calls or emails. Are the supervisors giving more money to those who have failed victims? Is there accountability for those perpetrators that are Not the regular Joe? CALIFORNIA AUDIT NOW! The supervisors should assign a group of non political people. The money should be managed by this independent group. Victims should go to local agencies they chose and the bill send this group. Giving Money to DA’s Rosen, Sheriff, YWCA, and COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS is a sign of insanity from the county’s supervisors. The public must request accountability from all these agencies that have failed victims again and again.

    • FEXXNIST, I’m reluctant to take you seriously here because it risks offending you as it might give the impression that you were being serious but do you really expect anyone to believe your post? It is obviously false. What agency was supposedly involved? Where did it happen? When approximately did it happen? Did you know you can go to the State DOJ to report something like this if you don’t think local law enforcement, and/or the local district attorney’s office is too corrupt to investigate something like this? What agency is this supposed “law enforcement” associated with? Misconduct, on or off-duty by law enforcement personnel does occasionally happen but I seriously doubt that anyone at whatever agency this is supposedly associated to is going to risk their career, livelihood and freedom by covering this up. Tell me what agency this involves. Just post the agency name here. I will look into it myself and get to the actual truth. There is no way this is true. You are either making this up or are extremely naive and have been duped into believing some false narrative simply because it reinforces your preconceived idea of law enforcement corruption and satisfies your incredible “man-hate”. Leave names out. I anticipate you will go with the confidentiality farce to avoid reinforcing your claim with facts but any information released can be released through freedom of information requests and the (fictional) victim’s name redacted. In the mean time, please seek professional help. It’s never too late.

      • supervisor Dave Cortese was contacted this week on this situation. He sent email to the mother of the victim about his staff contacting DA and for them to expect a call from the DA’s victims unit. You are either an idiot or simply lack life experience. You may see this story soon on the news. Victims do not want to vent their stories publicly. Sometimes, this is the only thing they can do. I am aware and of worst sh!t than this. IMAGINE THAT!

        • FEXXNIST, I certainly don’t lack life experience so I must just be an idiot, but if this (likely imaginary) victim of yours actually did seek medical treatment, healthcare providers are required by law to report suspected domestic violence and these people are objective third parties outside of law enforcement who can readily be interviewed by a victim’s attorney, if need be, not just the police.. For your rantings to be true, the following things would all also have to be true:

          1.The crime actually occurred in reality, not just in your own mind or based on what the voices in your head have told
          you second hand..
          2. It was perpetrated by someone in law enforcement.
          3. It was reported to the police, and/or to the district attorney’s office by the victim and/or the victim’s family, and/or a healthcare provider, and ignored by everyone in the former law enforcement agencies who must all be corrupt and were willing to put their careers, livelihoods and potentially their freedom at risk by ignoring it while hoping that an outside party (the healthcare provider) would not cooperate with any follow-up investigation by the State Attorney general..
          4. The media ignored a nice juicy story and a chance to denigrate local law enforcement yet again.

          Do you have the police agency’s name and/or the case number of the report? Does it actually exist, because I haven’t seen it on the news.

          • I know this victim quite well. Yes, the Kaiser representative called the Police Department when the victim was making the appointment for pain on the neck resulting from her father attempting to choke her. It was this Kaiser representative that actually was given the case number which he gave to the victim. It is the Gilroy Police Department. Dave cortese and Cindy CHAVEZ were contacted because victim has not been able to receive a copy of her report. It had been five months the already. You are in deed an IDIOT! This is is just Rosen giving another pass to this criminal with connections to judges. Hello Julia EMEDE; this is your beloved law enforcement and [email protected] active pedophile!

      • You should know something. I never comment about information I do not have first hand knowledge. Some people ask me to share and others not to. I do this for them as they wish. It is their information.

        • Fex, you are just plain wrong about this.If you feel that strongly, go to the State Attorney general and report the corruption. You have obviously had a bad experience with Gilroy PD and this is the first time you flown off the handle about them. Please get help.

      • The information was sent to county’s supervisors this week asking them to reconsider giving more money to those that have failed victims including ROSEN. The information is shared with those with a need to know not just for gossip.

  2. > Santa Clara County May Kick in $1.7M for Rape Crisis Centers to Address Funding Shortfall

    I’m unclear on the logic for this.

    Don’t existing public agencies provide services that address this problem?

    If there is a bonafide public need for this service and there is an existing public agency that receives funding to provide this service, then problem solved. Just make the funded public agency do its job.

  3. AACI story number one: There was a kind Asian male that had worked for AACI for more than 20 years. He was months away from retirement. He wanted to obtain all benefits of retirement. But then! He started to be emotionally harassed by his female supervisor b!tch Elizabeth. He was criticized about all his work. Suddenly, all work he did all those years was no longer good. He commented his mental stress with few coworkers. One day, he was just not there; no words about what happened to F….K. Everyone was shocked! He was well liked by most, not b!tch Elizabeth.

  4. Gardner Family Care Virginia Street Story number one: Dual Diagnosis clients and employees exposed to TripleX porn during a graduation event for clients. When a third part entity requested information about the incident, the agency responded via their attorney it was not triple porn but “soft porn.” Is “soft porn” part of the dual diagnosis graduation goodies?

  5. Susan Ellenberg has a lot of nerve pretending to care about DV and domestic safety when Walter Hammon was her campaign manager and hosted her political parties.
    He consistently steals money from women in family court and gets DV and RO charges dropped when needed. He promotes kids to be taken from their mothers in multiple cases.

    Ellenberg should not have any association with family court attorneys like Hammon: in fact, she should be seeking his disbarment. His treatment of women is without conscience.

    Of course Hammons wife, Maben, is out being a do gooder to offset his evil practices.

    Shame on you, Susan Ellenberg.

  6. Ummm she’s an attorney….and now a politician. If you want to go after who controls the family and juvenile dependency courts, follow the $50 billion industry to the AFCCnet. org

    • > If you want to go after who controls the family and juvenile dependency courts, follow the $50 billion industry to the AFCCnet. org

      Lots of happy, smiley faces on their homepage. Oh, and I gather that they “care about the children”.

      What the hell do the do?

      $50 billion will buy a lot of booze for office parties.

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