Murkowski, Casey Introduce Bill to Support Survivors of Domestic Violence

Strengthens Services for More Than 1.3 Million Survivors of Domestic Violence

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Bob Casey (D-PA)  recently introduced the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act of 2019 (S. 2259), which 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.

This legislation would not only increase authorized funding for tribes and tribal organizations; it would authorize funding for tribal coalitions which provide vital support to tribes and tribal domestic violence programs, codify both the Alaskan Native Women’s Resource Center (ANWRC) and the currently funded StrongHearts Native Helpline. Both ANWRC and StrongHearts provide culturally-specific technical assistance and support to domestic violence shelters and Alaskan Native survivors with their dependents.  

For a fact sheet on the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act of 2019, click here. For the full text of the bill, click here.

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.

“Imagine: a mother in rural Alaska has fallen victim to an abusive partner, alongside her two children. The mother and her children desperately need to find a safe place to stay and recover from the abuse, but the closest shelter is nearly 100 miles away and it’s already over capacity. The village they call home isn’t connected to a road system and the family can’t afford air fare to reach the next closest shelter. Instead, they’re forced to remain in a hostile environment and the cycle of domestic violence continues. This situation may seem far-fetched to some, but unfortunately in Alaska this scenario is not unique. It is a heartbreaking reality for too many,” said Senator Murkowski. “Alaska Native women have reported rates of domestic violence up to 10 times higher than in the rest of the United States and physical assault rates up to 12 times higher. As we work to tackle these unacceptable statistics, FVPSA will help ensure victims and their children have the support they need. This is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing the issue of domestic violence and assault, but it’s an incredibly important one.”

“Family violence, domestic violence and dating violence are a public health crisis in this country. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 1,600 people died from domestic violence-related incidents during the last decade,” said Senator Casey. “We must all work together to end this epidemic in our communities; that is why I introduced the Family Violence Prevention and Services Improvement Act, which provides vital services for survivors, particularly those from underserved communities, such as racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, seniors and youth. I look forward to working Senator Murkowski and our colleagues to make sure survivors across America have the support they need.”

Background: FVPSA, which was first authorized in 1984 and under its most recent 2010 authorization, is the only federal funding source dedicated to supporting domestic violence shelters and life-saving programs. FVPSA’s authorization expired in 2015.

Endorsements: FVPSA has widespread, bipartisan support and has been endorsed by: The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence (API-GBV), StrongHearts Native Helpline, National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), Alaska Native Women's Resource Center (ANWRC), Futures Without Violence, National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ), YWCA USA, National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health (NCDVTMH), National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), National LGBTQ Institute on IPV, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), Alliance of Tribal Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Ujima: National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community, Battered Women’s Justice Project (BWJP). 

"Recognizing the need and funding for an Alaska specific tribal resource center continues to be a positive step towards addressing the disproportionate rate of violence Alaska native women experience who are overrepresented as DV victims by 250% yet are least likely to receive the needed help to begin addressing the problem. When violence happens within our native villages, the Alaska Native Women's Resource Center is providing information and support to programs to address the problem, as well as providing education to law and policy makers to ensure the laws reflect the needed change," said Michelle Demmert, Law & Policy Consultant Alaska Native Women's Resource Center.

“Alaskans can count on Senator Murkowski to listen to the voices of survivors and then to do what Alaskans do: she takes action. She has seen the grim realities of domestic violence in Alaska and does not turn a blind eye.  ANDVSA is deeply grateful to Senator Lisa Murkowski for her leadership on the Family Violence Services and Prevention Act Reauthorization, a bill that will help survivors find safety and support when they are fleeing abuse,” said Carmen Lowry, Executive Director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.

“We are thrilled that the statute introduced includes permanent funding for an Alaska specific tribal resource center.  We will be able to continue to provide our communities the opportunity to break the deafening silence surrounding victims and bring healing to our people with laws, policies and local responses rooted in Alaska Native voices, languages and teachings,” said Tami Turett Jerue, Executive Director of the Alaska Native Women's Resource Center.

"FVPSA funding has provided essential services to those trying to leave their abusive situation.  We thank Senator Murkowski for her ongoing commitment to increase much needed services, recognizing the need for specialized programs to serve the American Indian and Alaska Native community more completely,” said Richard (Chalyee Éesh) Peterson, President of the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

"The Family Violence Prevention and Service Act (FVPSA) is at the core of National Resource Center on Domestic Violence's work and our nation's response to domestic violence. We are so incredibly grateful to Senator Casey and Senator Murkowski for their leadership championing these critical improvements to FVPSA. We hope that these improvements will help meet the needs of survivors around the country and continue to support lifesaving programs and resources," said Farzana Safiullah, CEO of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

“Over 40 years ago, battered women and their advocates, including Native women, came together to call for changes in the ways our tribal, federal and state governments and societies responded to domestic violence, including a 1978 consultation sponsored by the US Commission on Civil Rights titled Battered Women: Issues of Public Policy. Alaska Native women organized in the late 70’s in villages across the state of Alaska in the same way Native women organized in the lower 48 to create shelters and safe spaces for victims of domestic and sexual violence and hold governments accountable. Such grassroots organizing resulted in the passage in 1984 of the first FVPSA and opening of 2 Native Women’s shelters - the Emmonak Women’s Shelter in the Native Village of Emmonak and the White Buffalo Calf Women’s Society on the Rosebud Reservation. Both shelters still operate today and serve as beacons of hope and light for Native women everywhere,” said Paula Julian, Senior Policy Specialist for the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. “Tribal funding since 1984 through FVPSA has supported such life-saving spaces for Native women for less than half of tribes across the country. Reauthorization of FVPSA with critical tribal enhancements, including increased funding for tribes, permanent authorization for the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, StrongHearts Native Domestic Violence Helpline and funding for nonprofit tribal domestic violence coalitions fulfills the federal trust responsibility to assist Indian tribes in safeguarding the lives of Indian Women.”

“The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence applauds Senators Casey and Murkowski for introducing this life-saving legislation. FVPSA is the backbone of the domestic violence shelter movement – it keeps the doors open and the lights on,” said Ruth Glenn, CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “This bipartisan reauthorization bill expands access to this vital program, ensuring that the communities most impacted have resources heretofore denied to them. We stand with Senators Murkowski and Casey as they stand with victims and survivors across the United States.”

“FVPSA funding is absolutely essential to ensuring the safety of victims and their children. Survivors need to know that when they come forward for help and support it will be there,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

“The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) is critical to ensure survivors of domestic violence and their children receive the services and care they need to feel safe and secure,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, CEO of YWCA USA. “Since 2014, FVPSA has supported 64 local YWCA associations in 28 states provide emergency shelters, transitional housing, supportive programs, counseling, and hotline services. But unfortunately, the need for services still far exceeds the resources available. YWCA USA applauds the introduction of this important bipartisan reauthorization bill and thanks Senator Casey and Senator Murkowski for their support in ending domestic violence.”

FVSPA is such a life-line for so many survivors,” said Sue Osthoff, Director of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women. “These updates will help ensure that some of the most marginalized survivors get the resources and help they need.

"The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and its dating abuse, prevention, and education project for youth, loveisrespect, is authorized through the Family Violence and Prevention Services Act (FVPSA). For more than 21 years, FVPSA has provided critical funding that has allowed us to answer more than five million calls, text, and chats from people affected by intimate partner violence," said Katie Ray Jones, CEO of The Hotline. “Millions of survivors depend on our organization for resources and support, and the successful reauthorization of FVPSA with key improvements will ensure that we are able to continue to provide this life-saving support to survivors. We commend Sen. Casey and Sen. Murkowski for their continued commitment to all survivors through the re-introduction of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act.”

“StrongHearts Native Helpline is happy to support this bill and appreciates the bipartisan effort to support critical enhancements to improve services in Indian Country,” said Lori Jump, Assistant Director of StrongHearts Native Helpline.