The leadership of Me Too Springfield has released a statement regarding the recent report to Springfield City Council by the Sexual Assault Task Force. In it, the group gives praise for items in the report but also takes the task force to task for items they felt should have also been included in the report.
“Overall, Me Too Springfield is extremely hopeful about the positive impact these changes will make,” Me Too Springfield President Jordan Harris said in the statement. “We are eager to see the progress Springfield City Council makes throughout the next year.”
In the statement, the group thanks the members of the task force for their dedication to the project, and also praises the city for “the City’s initiative to enhance efforts to support victims and seek justice for them.”
The group agreed with the task force that education and awareness of the depth of the problem of sexual assault in the region are vital in changing the investigative and legal process to be more victim-focused and a safe environment for victims to come forward about crimes committed against them.
Me Too Springfield also gave the City leaders praise for efforts to increase “understanding and promote prevention at a higher level.”
However, the group was also dissatisfied at several aspects of the report and process under which the task force itself was created by the City Council.
Me Too Springfield pointed out that the task force was the result of increased public attention on what the group called “negligence and mishandling of sex crimes investigations.” A report from CNN regarding the handling of rape kits and the lack of testing of those kits was a major factor in bringing the subject to the forefront in the community.
The statement also condemns the task force’s report for having few recommendations for accountability of the Springfield Police Department, along with actions to rebuild trust between many victims and the department.
The group also claims they don’t see “urgency” on the part of City Council or staff to adopt recommendations from the task force. The group said they will be “holding the City responsible” for quickly implementing items from the report.
Here is the organization’s full statement:
Me Too Springfield is pleased to read the long-awaited report issued by the Springfield City Council’s Task Force on Sexual Assault last week detailing their research and recommendations regarding the City’s efforts to address sexual violence. While there are a few shortcomings, MTS affirms that the recommendations outlined in the report are vitally important to appropriately supporting victims and victim service organizations, and to the foundational cultural change necessary for long-term gains.
First and foremost, MTS would like to thank all of the members of the task force for their dedication to improving the lives and experiences of our community’s survivors and victims of sexual assault. We sincerely appreciate the City’s initiative to enhance efforts to support victims and seek justice for them, and to ensure that investigations are properly handled.
The report recommends continual data collection on sexual violence in order to develop and implement a community education campaign. We believe education and awareness are major keys for effective foundational change that shifts cultural norms and appreciate the priority to ensure victims a safe and supportive experience during the legal process.
It also emphasizes making improvements in the local judicial and legislative sectors such as introducing trauma-centered practice into the criminal justice system and bringing about positive systemic change through sexual assault initiatives. The legal process is often the most difficult for survivors who come forward. MTS admires the initiative of the City to increase understanding and promote prevention at a higher level.
MTS is pleased to see a well-rounded approach to the community’s concerns, and these recommendations are a great launching point. However, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that this task force was established after the City faced increasing scrutiny from the media, local organizations and individuals condemning the negligence and mishandling of sex crimes investigations. MTS leadership was disappointed to learn that there was little recommended in terms of accountability and attempts to reestablish trust between victims and the Springfield Police Department. Additionally, MTS noticed a lack of urgency for the City’s adoption of these recommendations. As an organization focused on supporting victims and survivors in every way possible, MTS pledges to prioritize holding the City responsible for timely implementation.
Me Too Springfield President Jordan Harris stated, “Overall, Me Too Springfield is extremely hopeful about the positive impact these changes will make. We are eager to see the progress Springfield City Council makes throughout the next year.”