May 11, 2020

Weekly Column: Addressing Rise In Domestic Violence

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Reports indicate crisis centers and law enforcement agencies have seen a rise in domestic violence incidents as communities face increased strain from the impacts of the pandemic.  To address this problem, I joined a bipartisan group of senators in urging Senate Leadership to include more support for domestic violence programs in any further emergency coronavirus response legislation. 

As we raised in our letter, Phase 3 of the emergency coronavirus response legislation, the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, included $45 million to support domestic violence services through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act and $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  However, assault or domestic violence programs administered through the U.S. Department of Justice need additional support to help meet the needs of domestic violence victims.  Specifically, we requested additional funding for the following programs:

  • The Sexual Assault Service Program;
  • The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) STOP Grants;
  • Grants for Outreach and Services to Underserved Populations; and
  • VAWA Transitional Housing Assistance Grants.

We also requested the waiver of matching fund requirements for the Victims of Crime Act grants during this crisis to meet survivors’ needs quickly. 

Additionally, we raised concerns that American Indian communities face disparities in shelter capacity and resources worsened by COVID-19.  We requested the recognition of Tribal sovereignty as the federal government fulfills its trust responsibility to Indian Tribes.  We stressed the importance of shelter and Tribal advocacy programs in addressing the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis, as we urged assistance for the Tribes and Tribal Organizations through VAWA programs that include grants to Tribal governments, jurisdictions and coalitions.  We also requested additional assistance for Tribal governments through the Office of Victims of Crime.

As we stressed to our Senate colleagues, “Historically, instances of domestic violence have increased in times of national crisis—and this crisis may be particularly dangerous for people who experience domestic violence.”  Victims of domestic violence may feel especially isolated right now and may not feel like there is a way to get out.  We must help provide reassurance that no matter what is going on currently in the world, they do not have to take it and there are places they can go for timely help.  Infusing these programs with additional resources will help ensure the provision of much needed services across the board at a time when far too many families need it most. 

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