Ensuring Domestic Violence Survivors’ Safety – Center for American Progress

The current crisis of DV shines a spotlight on the overriding inadequacies of the very systems intended to support survivors and to prevent or mitigate DV itself. An improved system of survivor supports would:

  • Ensure DV programs and shelters receive sufficient funding and are deemed essential businesses during the pandemic and any future crises.
  • Improve access to comprehensive paid family and medical leave and paid sick leave; child care; and unemployment insurance if a survivor needs to leave a job for an extended period or loses a job.
  • Prioritize improvements to existing laws, including the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and legislative fixes to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)

When effectively implemented and strongly backed, a robust support infrastructure helps to ensure a survivor’s safety, health, and economic security. As the country contends with the negative economic and health effects of the pandemic, simply pushing to reopen states is not the catchall solution—for survivors or the public in general. Not only is the coronavirus pandemic still a very real threat that could require future lockdowns to control the spread of the virus, but reopening the economy in an effort to return to business as usual will do little to address the DV crisis. In fact, business as usual has long been inadequate for survivors, even before this pandemic. It is critical that bold structural solutions to address the DV crisis and prevent future violence be developed, both as an immediate concern and as a means to improve support structures for survivors into the future.7

Strengthening the survivor support infrastructure

Much of the progress made to address the needs of DV survivors over the past 25 years has focused on building a network of national, state, and local programs and services intended to prevent, mitigate, and respond to incidents of DV. This informal infrastructure—made up of elements such as crisis hotlines, shelters, DV programs, and state, local, and tribal law enforcement—has been bolstered by a series of groundbreaking laws such as VAWA, which first passed in 1994 and was reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013.8 VAWA was, in part, a response to the inadequate protections available to survivors and lapses in law enforcement that too often failed to address the needs of survivors or take complaints seriously. Over the years, VAWA has strengthened accountability for perpetrators of DV and other forms of gender-based violence; created numerous service programs, such as hotlines and housing programs, designed to mitigate experiences of violence; authorized grants to law enforcement around the country; and more.9 Many of these improvements have been, and remain, crucial, underscoring the importance of the reauthorization of VAWA.

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