Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Murkowski, Klobuchar, Casey, Colleagues Urge Support for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Bob Casey (D-PA) together, penned two letters outlining supplemental funding proposals to address the rising rates of domestic violence and sexual assault amid the stay-at-home orders put in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Senator Murkowski joined Senators Klobuchar and Casey in a letter, supported by a bipartisan group of 38 colleagues, requesting that any future legislation to address COVID-19 includes supplemental funding for specific programs implemented by the Department of Justice (DOJ), many of which are authorized in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In their letter, the senators express concern that service providers are reporting that abusers are using COVID-19 to isolate their victims, withhold financial resources, and refuse medical aid. In addition rape crisis centers are seeing increased need for services and many local law enforcement agencies are receiving an increased number of domestic violence-related calls. The full text of the letter can be found here.
“We appreciate that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $45 million for domestic violence services funded through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act and $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline,” the senators wrote. “While this funding provides critical resources, the legislation did not include any additional support for sexual assault or domestic violence-related programs funded through the Department of Justice. These programs deliver essential support that is particularly needed at this time, including support for 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.”
Senator Murkowski also joined Senators Casey and Klobuchar in a second letter requesting that additional funding for programs implemented through Health and Human Services (HHS) which support victims of family violence, domestic violence and dating violence be included in the anticipated fourth COVID-19 legislative package. Specifically, the Senators request that any additional supplemental package addressing the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- Funding for shelters and supports, resource centers and technical assistance to support victims of domestic violence, including an additional $100 million for programs funded by the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA);
- Funding to coordinate language-accessible public outreach to hard-to-reach populations, including $100 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
- Set-aside assistance for Tribes and Tribal organizations;
- Robust increases in emergency supplemental funding under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to prevent child abuse and neglect; and
- Provisions to waive the matching requirements under FVPSA and under Title II of CAPTA so workers on the ground can swiftly respond to the needs of survivors during this public health crisis.
“Rural areas around the country are experiencing the same uptick in people seeking shelter from domestic violence, with further limited resources. American Indian and Alaska Native communities’ disparities in shelter capacity and resources are being exacerbated by the virus. Many of these communities already experience overcrowding in homes and a lack of sanitation services and running water,” the Senators wrote. “… Shelters and Tribal advocacy programs are often all that stands between safety and Native women going missing and/or murdered.”
For the full text of the letter click here.
What Alaskans are saying:
“Our rural tribal communities in Alaska are struggling right now without adequate transportation for delivery of needed supplies—medication, food and oil for heating—our shelves are near empty. Our homes are stressed with the ‘Shelter in Place’ mandate and shutdown of employment. We do not have the necessary infrastructure for internet-based options or work from home and so most people are laid off. The proposed funding that this next bill could provide would help us get through this trying and unprecedented time. We thank Senator Murkowski for always remembering us in rural Alaska,” said Tami Truett Jerue, Executive Director, Alaska Native Women's Resource Center.
“Advocates in Alaska are working to respond to domestic and sexual violence have always been frontline workers and always experienced heightened risks of being targets of violence because of their work with victims and survivors. The current coronavirus pandemic has increased risks for victims and survivors, as well as those advocates who work to provide emergency and life-saving services. We do not stop our work because of these risks. We are quickly and effectively shifting to implement strategies that increase the safety of victims—whether they seek safety in a shelter or are sequestered in the same residence as their abuser—and for advocates who respond to these conditions. These additional flexible funds would allow our agencies to be more responsive to emerging situations while moving us toward safer interventions and responses. These additional funds, with assurances that they are used in the ways intended, would save lives,” said Carmen Lowry, Executive Director, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
“We appreciate Senator Murkowski, Senator Klobuchar, and Senator Casey acknowledging tribal sovereignty and providing tribes with the resources needed to address domestic violence. Such action fully recognizes the federal government's trust responsibility to assist Indian Tribes in safeguarding the lives of victims. These resources encompass critical funding needs to help protect tribal communities and provide services to victims of domestic and sexual violence with the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 public health emergency and crisis,” said Lucy Simpson, Executive Director, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.
In addition, both letters are currently supported by the following organizations:
Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center; Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence; Break the Cycle; California Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities; Futures Without Violence; Jewish Women International; Legal Momentum; National Alliance to End Sexual Violence; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; National Council of Jewish Women; National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges; National Domestic Violence Hotline; National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center; National Network to End Domestic Violence; National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault; National Resource Center on Domestic Violence; Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape; StrongHearts Native Helpline; Tahirih Justice Center; Ujima, Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community; YWCA USA.
In March of 2020, Senators Murkowski, Klobuchar, and Casey led their colleagues in a letter calling on the Administration to ensure service providers have the flexibility and resources to help victims and survivors of domestic violence.