AUSTIN, Texas - A Sexual Assault Community Advisory Board has been formed to advocate for survivors in Travis County. The members of the Advisory Board are Amanda Lewis, Deepika Modali, Hanna Senko, Heather Sin, Jeana Lungwitz, and Mary Ruth Reyes.
Travis County District Attorney José Garza made the announcement in a press release on March 8. The board will advise his office on building a criminal justice system that works for survivors.
The Sexual Assault Community Advisory Board is composed of survivors who have dealt with the criminal justice system in Travis County, in addition to community advocates and experts.
"We know that no one knows better what survivors of sexual assault need and how to build a criminal justice system that meets their needs than survivors themselves, and so we were incredibly excited to put together this advisory board of survivors and of experts to help us make good on our commitment," DA Garza said.
DA Garza says it was important to involve sexual assault survivors and advocates in this board. "Survivors know best what they need out of our system and we think it's prudent to listen to them," he said.
"I see this as a great opportunity to be able to help identify challenges and deficits within internal systems and processes, from the lens of lived experience," said survivor and advocate Reyes. "I am excited and anxious to push forward in the pursuit of systemic change for sexual assault survivors. This work is emotionally taxing and sometimes infuriating but making meaningful progress requires everyone to be engaged. I’m grateful for the voices, passion, and commitment of everyone."
The creation of the Sexual Assault Community Advisory Board is a first step of the District Attorney’s commitment to partnering with community members directly impacted by this issue who will offer and lead solutions, according to his office.
The formation of the Sexual Assault Community Advisory Board comes after Travis County and the City of Austin announced lawsuit settlements for sexual assault survivors. DA Garza says it is important to create a safe criminal justice system following that for survivors.
"It was a high priority for our administration to resolve that lawsuit, so that we could begin to sit down at the same table with survivors and work with them to build the system that they deserve," said DA Garza.
This will not be the only board created. According to DA Garza, the DA’s office is working towards bringing together multiple other different community groups together to advise the office on a variety of issues as well.