Breaking News
More () »

State leaders meet with victims' advocates regarding new legislation

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Health care leaders also want survivors to know what resources are available to them.

DES MOINES, Iowa — In a show of bipartisanship, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst and Democrat Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller met with sexual assault victim advocates on Thursday.

The group discussed the recent passage of the Violence Against Women Act, which President Biden signed into law last month.

"But next step, of course, is to take these voices, take a look at the types of programs that really need to be out there and authorized, and then start having those conversations all over again.," Ernst said.

This comes as leaders across the state push to make sure people know about resources for victims of sexual assault.

"I continually have patients coming in and telling me that they didn't realize that these services existed or that after the assault they had to Google to find out what to do and where to go, which is really unfortunate in that circumstance," said Katy Rasmussen, the sexual assault nurse examiner for the University of Iowa Hospitals.

Rasmussen says the pandemic led to a drop-off in people reporting attacks. And while that trend is reversing, the numbers are still not back to pre-pandemic levels.

"A great majority of these cases are not reported to law enforcement," Rasmussen added. "We would assume that a lot of those patients are also not coming in for the health care that they need."

RELATED: House votes to reauthorize bill to protect women from domestic violence

RELATED: A step towards reducing violence: LUNA creates support group for teens with trauma

According to the CDC, one in three women nationwide is a victim of sexual violence. That number is one in four for men.

"That's the tip of the iceberg because most people don't come forward at all. And statistics are very high out there when you start looking at the real numbers," said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

That's where programs like "Safe at Home" come in. That gives victims access to a legal replacement addresses that can appear on public documents.

"When we started this, we thought maybe 500 people on the average, well, we're over 1,200," Pate said.

Another important resource is the National Sexual Assault Hotline: that number is 800-656-4673.

Download the We Are Iowa app
Sign up for Local 5's "5 Things to Know" email newsletter
Subscribe to Local 5 News on YouTube

Before You Leave, Check This Out