U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is calling on Senate leadership to include funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs in the upcoming reconciliation package. The pandemic caused the rates and severity of incidents of domestic violence to increase across New York and the entire nation. Social isolation, economic uncertainty, and general anxiety about the virus added layers of stress for many families and increased the risk of domestic violence and violence against women. Many victims of sexual harassment and abuse experienced financial abuse, isolation, and were in need of medical and housing assistance while under quarantine during the pandemic. The VAWA programs have not received any supplemental funding since the onset of the pandemic, which has made it increasingly difficult for service providers to meet the increased need for crisis intervention, legal services, and transitional housing.
“It is now evident that the pandemic caused the rates and severity of incidents of domestic violence to increase across the country. For far too many, staying at home was not safe – Congress has a duty to protect victims and survivors of domestic violence,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The federal government has the ability to provide critical resources for programs that support sexual assault service providers, law enforcement, and transitional housing programs, as well as for organizations that address the needs of communities of color and underserved populations. We must expand resources for providers of domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor services in the upcoming reconciliation package so they are better equipped to meet this unique and growing challenge.”
Senator Gillibrand is a leading advocate in the Senate for women and sexual assault survivors. In July of 2021, Gillibrand announced her bipartisan and bicameral Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault & Sexual Harassment Act, which would stop perpetrators from being able to push survivors of sexual harassment and assault into the secretive, biased process of forced arbitration. This important legislation would invalidate forced arbitration clauses that prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors from seeking justice and public accountability under the laws meant to protect them. In April of 2020, Gillibrand pushed Congress to include support for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the second phase of COVID-19 relief legislation. Prior to passage of the CARES Act in March of 2020, Senator Gillibrand called on the Trump administration to ensure that organizations that help victims and survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence have the funding and resources needed to provide these critical services during the coronavirus pandemic. While the CARES Act did provide more than $45 million in support for domestic violence services, Senator Gillibrand expressed concern that additional funding and stronger programs were essential for domestic violence and sexual assault service providers, law enforcement, and transitional housing programs
This letter was signed by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
It is supported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Jewish Women International, National Domestic Violence Hotline, Tahirih Justice Center, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Black Women’s Blueprint, and Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network.
Full text of the letter can be found HERE.