Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt and former state Sen. Wendy Davis announced the creation of a Sexual Assault Prevention and Healing Work Group today in response to concerns about how sexual assaults are handled in Travis County.
The group will focus on collecting data about sexual assaults to better advocate for survivors.
The public discourse surrounding sexual assault investigations has become bitter, Eckhardt said at a news conference. This working group is a way for “all sides to put down their swords."
Announcement of the group follows a state audit this month that found Austin police had misclassified a third of rape cases investigators reviewed. Last year, a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of sexual assault survivors who say the city and county mishandled their cases.
Eckhardt said the working group is meant to help the community do more to prevent and prosecute sexual assault, as well as help survivors heal. She said the first step is to start collecting meaningful public data.
“I’m asking the Sexual Assault Prevention and Healing Work Group to focus on the standardization for the collection, aggregating and analysis of meaningful data on how reported sexual assault is addressed in the criminal justice context,” she said.
Eckhardt and Davis will choose members of the group and lead efforts. Davis said she is glad to be involved after advocating for sexual assault legislation during her time in the state Senate. She said she wants to make sure survivors in Travis County have the resources they need to deal with the criminal and emotional aspects of an assault.
“When I talk about healing, I think of it from a number of different aspects,” Davis said. “When a survivor comes forward with a complaint about what’s happened to him or her, that person is received well, and from that moment is surrounded by the very best practices.”