Beyond the Breakthrough: Providing All Survivors with Access to Justice

The theme of the 2019 National Sexual Assault Conference—Beyond the Breakthrough—sought to inspire the collective movement to end sexual violence and build on the momentum of the #MeToo movement. Ms. was the media sponsor for the conference—and expanded the discussions happening on-site with this dedicated series. Click here to read more posts. You can also watch interviews and conference sessions from #NSAC2019 on the Ms. Facebook!

What we do and say about sexual harassment, abuse and assault matters. That’s why I’m thrilled to see many in the legal profession expanding the conversation beyond emergency relief to provide comprehensive legal services for survivors.

This year, the National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) will engage attorneys, legal advocates and those interested in both civil and criminal law issues in productive discussions designed to promote access to justice and support for survivors on many levels. There are more than a dozen meaningful workshops covering legal issues.

Because of my work at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), I am particularly interested in workshops that will enhance my ability to provide legal services to underserved communities.

PCAR’s Sexual Violence Legal Assistance Project, which launched in 2018, provides comprehensive legal representation, advice and counsel to survivors of sexual harassment, abuse and assault who cannot access legal services in the county where they reside.

Through this project, I learned about the significant need for legal services within correction systems—which include prison, jails, private facilities and more. I immersed myself in the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and continue to attend webinars and trainings that provide information on the many nuances involved with serving individuals who are victimized within correction settings. I am excited that NSAC will tackle this difficult area and I look forward to learning more about PREA and hearing from colleagues who are championing this work. 

Sexual harassment, assault and abuse are preventable. Together, we can break systemic barriers and create cultures that acknowledge the value of every life and promote respect and access to justice on every level. 

To learn more about the PREA track at NSAC, visit us online. For more information about supporting PREA work in your community, visit Just Detention International or the National PREA Resource Center


Suzanne V. Estrella is the Legal Director at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.