Wyden, Merkley Urge Support in Future COVID-19 Legislation for Victims and Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today joined a bipartisan group of 38 colleagues requesting that any future legislation to address COVID-19 includes support for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The Oregon senators’ request comes amid reports from service providers that abusers are using COVID-19 to isolate their victims, withhold financial resources, and refuse medical aid; 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.

“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,” the senators wrote.

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the letter led by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Bob Casey (D-PA) was signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ),  Sherrod Brown (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NM), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

“Rape crisis centers provide the nation’s frontline response to sexual assault. They are passionate about supporting survivors during this time of intense crisis. Over 600 local programs responded to our recent survey indicating they need emergency funding to address critical needs, transition to virtual services, and reach out to the most vulnerable. We are so grateful to Senators Klobuchar, Murkowski, and Casey for leading the charge to ensure sexual assault is addressed in any future legislation to address the coronavirus pandemic,” said Terri Poore, Policy Director at the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

“News reports from across the nation and across the globe have documented a significant increase in domestic violence incidences. Our member programs are telling us that they do not have the resources to serve all of the survivors seeking help,” said Ruth M. Glenn, President and CEO of National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We appreciate Senators Klobuchar, Murkowski, and Casey’s leadership on making sure Congress recognizes the unique dangers victims and survivors face when they have nowhere to escape their abuser. The measures the Senators lay out in their letters will mean access to safety for the millions of Americans who experience intimate partner violence annually.”

The letter is supported by the following groups: 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; StrongHearts Native Helpline; Tahirih Justice Center; Ujima, Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community; YWCA USA.

Text of the letter is here.

A web version of this release is here.