Murkowski, Casey Introduce Bill to Support Survivors of Domestic Violence

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Bob Casey (D-PA) recently introduced S.1275, legislation to improve the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act (FVPSA). This legislation would enhance and expand support, protection, and prevention for Americans affected by family violence, domestic violence, and dating violence. Through FVPSA, survivors receive services such as emergency shelter, crisis counseling, safety planning, and assistance recovering from financial abuse and housing insecurity.

More than 10 million people in the United States are abused each year, and more than one third of women and men in America report that they experienced sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. In Alaska, Native women are over-represented in the domestic violence victim population by 250 percent. Programs funded through FVPSA provide education and prevention programming. The bill expands prevention efforts, strengthens and updates the National Domestic Violence Hotline to better serve people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and creates a new program that provides resources for underserved populations.

Introduction of this bill builds on Senator Murkowski’s efforts to address law enforcement and public safety issues, the crisis of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native women, as well as improving and expanding access to healthcare services for survivors of sexual assault.

For a fact sheet on the bill, click here.

“We face the challenges of domestic violence and sexual assault across America. But many Alaskans in rural and remote communities face additional, unimaginable obstacles to receiving the help they need. I have heard the stories from women across the state about how they fell victim to an abusive partner or were in an unsafe living environment and desperately needed a safe place to stay. Unfortunately, the nearest shelter could be 100 or more miles away and almost always over capacity. Complicating the challenge, the majority of Alaska’s communities are not connected to a road system, and purchasing an expensive plane ticket for themselves – let alone one or more children – is simply out of the question. And now, as we continue to grapple with a global pandemic, our domestic violence shelters face additional challenges that at times have seemed impossible,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to once again join Senator Casey in introducing the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act which will continue to provide victims and their children with the critical support they need.”

“As families are under increased emotional and financial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations supporting survivors of family, domestic and dating violence are seeing an increase need for services,” said Senator Casey. “In Pennsylvania alone, more than 1,600 people died from domestic violence-related incidents during the last decade. The Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act would provide vital services for survivors—with an emphasis on those from underserved communities including racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, seniors and youth. We must all work together to end this epidemic in our communities. I look forward to working Senator Murkowski and our colleagues to make sure survivors across America have the support they need.”

“We are thrilled that the Senate version of FVPSA reauthorization has been introduced. There are many provisions that are vitally needed for the safety of all Alaska families, in particular for our Native and rural communities. This year's proposed statute includes permanent funding for an Alaska specific tribal resource center.  We look forward to continuing to provide our communities increased safety and healing with laws, policies and local responses rooted in Alaska Native voices, languages and teachings,” said Tami Truett Jerue, Executive Director of the Alaska Native Women's Resource Center.

“Arctic Women in Crisis utilizes FVSPA funds to partially fund our crisis line, our shelter advocate/case manager, and other vital and supportive services for our North Slope families. As are other shelters, we are currently facing budget shortfalls. At the same time, we are serving more survivors and receiving increased requests for outreach and prevention programs. FVPSA is the only dedicated federal funding source for our domestic violence services, and our shelter could not survive without these essential funds.” said Ginny Walsh, Program Coordinator, Arctic Women in Crisis – Utqia?vik.

“If we lose FVPSA funding it would impact our service delivery to our residents and communities, and our healing from domestic violence and sexual assault. It will impact the very homes that our people live in, and the families that will nurture us some day.” said Bertha Sulunulik Koweluk, Executive Director, Bering Sea Women's Group – Nome.

“Senator Murkowski has demonstrated to all of us that protecting victims of domestic and sexual violence is not a partisan issue.  Especially over the past year, as victim service agencies struggled with the incessant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Murkowski found the time to hear from advocates who daily served their communities and paid attention and believed us when we expressed our challenges.  We remain grateful to Senator Lisa Murkowski for her leadership in Congress on promoting the rights and safety of victims.” said Carmen Lowry, Executive Director, ANDVSA Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault – Statewide.