The coalition was founded in 1982 by a group of volunteer activists and rape crisis centers. It gradually grew from there as a voice for sexual assault survivors across the state. At that time, Iowa only had a handful of programs serving sexual assault survivors.
In 1989, the coalition celebrated its first legislative victory by passing legislation to criminalize marital rape in Iowa. It wasn’t until 1993 that all 50 states enacted similar legislation to make marital rape a crime.
A bill signing in 1989 for legislation that criminalized marital rape in Iowa.
In 1990, Beth Barnhill became IowaCASA’s second Executive Director, after activist and trailblazer Carol Meade stepped down. Beth started the first day of the legislative session in January 1990, eager to learn everything there was about running a nonprofit statewide organization. She has been with the coalition ever since, helping IowaCASA grow over time from a staff of few to a staff of many.
In 1999, the coalition received Rape Prevention Education funds to prevent sexual violence. The coalition currently uses this money to fund a number of prevention programs throughout the state. Our efforts to stop sexual violence before it begins have ramped up since the late 90’s, though prevention dollars are still less than 1 percent of the entire state budget for victim services.
In 2001, IowaCASA became a lead partner for the Resource Sharing Project, a national project that offers assistance and resources to sexual assault coalitions in all 56 states and territories. This partnership allowed us to significantly increase our work to end sexual violence, and it also gave us a national presence and connected us to coalitions and advocates across the country.
As part of our mission to meet the diverse needs of survivors, IowaCASA helped to incubate Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa (now Monsoon Asians and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity) in 2003. Monsoon is a culturally specific program that provides advocacy services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities in the state. Later, in 2014, IowaCASA helped to incubate Transformative Healing, a culturally specific program for LGBTQIA communities.
In 2008, IowaCASA helped to organize an immediate response to the Postville raid at Agriprocessors, Inc., which resulted in the arrest of nearly 400 immigrant workers. We conducted 6 months of support groups in coordination with consultants from across the state.
In 2009, sexual assault services program funding finally became a reality, changing the landscape for many victim service programs in Iowa. And then, in 2013, Iowa led the nation in a statewide restructuring of victim services. This was a collaborative effort between IowaCASA, the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, victim service programs, and the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Attorney General's Office. Since restructuring these services, Iowa victim service programs have seen an increase in survivors served, with a 223% increase in the number of sexual assault survivors served. We are proud of the fact that Iowa now serves as a national model to other states for service delivery.
After a 10-year fight, IowaCASA finally passed civil protective order legislation for sexual assault survivors in 2017. Up until that point, only domestic violence survivors were able to attain a civil protective order against the person who harmed them.
During the 2017 legislative session, policymakers cut victim service budgets by 26 percent. This cut greatly limited access to services and options for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable community members. We continue our work every year at the state legislature to make the case for sustained funding of victim services.
The #MeToo movement in Fall of 2017 marked a watershed moment when survivors of sexual violence and harassment came forward using social media to create a community of courage, encouragement, and belief. Sexual violence is a problem in every community and every profession. We must change the conversation from “who” to why and how—why is sexual violence a pervasive part of our culture, and how do we end it? We must work toward prevention efforts that will end sexual violence in our communities once and for all.