New UT research identifies need for more services to help sexual assault survivors in Texas

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Survivors of sexual assault in Texas do not always have access to important services and support provided by the state, according to new research from the University of Texas at Austin.

The researchers at UT Austin found some of those needed services include more transitional housing for people leaving abusive relationships, transportation, legal assistance and access to mental health therapy.

The university’s Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA) in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work conducted a survey statewide of more than 340 organizations and providers serving survivors of sexual violence. House Bill 1590 authorized the research and administered it through the governor’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force, according to a news release Monday from UT Austin.

In a statement, the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), said, “The intention of HB 1590 was to consider and improve upon efforts across the state to provide justice and support for survivors of sexual violence. The state needed to craft a thoughtful, survivor-centered plan for rooting out systemic problems preventing this and bringing to bear solutions needed to address those issues. This report by IDVSA, some of the most respected researchers in the country on these issues, is essential to this process. Now, we will have a baseline of service across the state and can hold ourselves accountable for improving how Texas treats survivors.”

The research showed the “greatest unmet need” for survivors is mental health services. The findings revealed people lacked access to therapists, particularly those with specialized trauma training or experience working with children. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic also made itself clear in the research, showing survivors felt more vulnerable and isolated due to things like the lack of in-person contact with their service providers.

The information compiled and identified by the researchers will be used to create a statewide directory of resources that can easily be accessed online.

Noël Busch-Armendariz, director of IDVSA and the project’s co-investigator, wrote in a statement, “We are always privileged to be a part of the statewide solution for solving crimes and meeting survivors’ needs. The collaboration between scientists, advocates such as the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Texas, and lawmakers ensures that the research is scientifically rigorous, practical and useful to survivors across our state.”

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