We hope this report, Sexual Violence Against Girls and Young Women in Hampden County, will spawn conversations and multi-sector efforts to better address sexual violence in our region and beyond.

This environmental scan examines existing data and other available information to:

  • identify data collection gaps,

  • characterize and describe the problem,

  • highlight available resources, and

  • recognize policies/funding aimed at preventing and responding to sexual violence.

About the Report

This assessment was initiated by the YEAH! (Youth Empowerment Adolescent Health) Network partners in an effort to better understand violence against children and youth in Hampden County. In 2007, the YEAH! Network was created to address the high teen birth rates in Holyoke and Springfield. Over a ten year period through a comprehensive regional approach, teen birth rates were reduced significantly though inequities continued to exist for some populations. The YEAH! Network was focused on empowering youth and increasing education and access to young people to support healthy choices and behavior as well as public policy to enhance systems addressing adolescent health. One theme that was particularly hard to quantify was the amount of sexual violence that young women experience, which research suggests increases risk for becoming a “teen parent”. In addition to the physical and emotional traumas of sexual violence, experiences of sexual violence are strongly associated with experiences of other types of violence as well as a variety of negative sexual, mental, and physical health outcomes. These include sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, depression and anxiety, engaging in risky and unhealthy behaviors, and experiencing other types of violence over the lifespan. This effort is intended to be a catalyst to understand the links between sexual violence and other health determinants and long term health outcomes in Hampden County.

Advisory Group

  • Paula Braverman, MD – Baystate Medical Center
  • Dalila Cardona, LCSW – YWCA of Western Massachusetts

  • Jesica Collins, MS – Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts

  • Elizabeth Dineen, JD – YWCA of Western Massachusetts

  • Dawn Distefano, MPA – Hampden County Commission on the Status of Women and Girls; Square One

  • Jen Falcone, LCSW - Businesses Against Human Trafficking

  • Samantha Hamilton, MA – Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts

  • Sharon Hall-Smith, MPH – Gándara Center

  • Deidre Hussey, PsyD – Baystate Health Family Advocacy Center

  • Cindy Miller, BS – Tapestry Health Systems, Inc.

  • Suzanne Parker, JD – Girls Inc. of Holyoke

  • Amy Waldman, MS – Massachusetts Department of Public Health

  • Jessica Wozniak, PsyD– Baystate Health Family Advocacy Center

We would also like to thank the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security for their assistance obtaining data for this report. In addition, we would like to thank the 2020 Young Women’s Advisory Council of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts for reviewing and providing feedback on the report.

Watch the Webinar

Watch the recording from the 11/13/2020 webinar, Sexual Violence Against Girls & Young Women: A Call to Action.  This webinar explores findings from our new report and includes a panel discussion of experts about gaps in data and actions being taken now.