We Can’t Let Congress Fail Survivors a Fourth Time

We Can't Let Congress Fail Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors a <i>Fourth</i> Time
The U.S. Capitol building in D.C. houses the 116th Congress. (Victoria Pickering / Flickr)

Democrats and Republicans in Congress are currently negotiating a deal on the next—and likely last—COVID-19 relief package. This will be the fourth stimulus package they’ve passed providing trillions of dollars in emergency relief.

Women’s rights activists are sounding the alarm, urging Congress to not leave out survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence—as they’ve done three times before.

Domestic Violence and COVID-19

While shelter-in-place ordinances saved lives, they also put lives at risk—resulting in increased family and interpersonal violence, as well as compounding trauma for survivors of sexual assault.

Isolation has shattered networks of support, domestic violence shelters are overwhelmed and victims are trapped at home with their abusers. COVID-19 has made it that much more difficult for those living with domestic abuse to get help.

Despite knowing this, Congress has failed to include funding for sexual violence services, for culturally specific organizations, or for tribes.

As the desperate need and subsequent expense for victim services both grow, a rise in donations to support the increased need has not, due to the economic downturn and other factors related to COVID-19. It’s clear domestic violence programs aren’t getting the financial support they need.

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Protections for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Survivors in Next COVID-19 Package

According to the National Task Force to End Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, the next COVID-19 relief package must include:

  • A fix to increase deposits into the Crime Victims Fund, in order to avoid cuts to federal grants for victim services without spending taxpayer money.
  • Dedicated funding for culturally-specific organizations providing domestic violence or sexual assault services for communities of color.
  • Address the needs of survivors by funding sexual assault services.
  • More funding for domestic and sexual violence programs through a VAWA grant directly to victim service providers.
  • Ensure safety and access to healthcare and economic supports for immigrant survivors. This includes restricting immigration enforcement at sensitive locations like courts and hospitals.
  • Allow states to make survivors eligible for unemployment insurance if they leave their jobs due to domestic or sexual violence.

Take Action

Contact your members of Congress by phone, email and through social media.

Sample email and social media posts can be found here.

Find your senators and their contact information here.

Find your representative and their contact information here.

Find your Congress members’ social media handles here.

Suggested script:

“Hello. My name is [your name], and I am a constituent [calling/emailing] from [your location and, if applicable, your program]. COVID-19 disproportionately impacts victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and Congress must act to support them and address their needs. This includes providing more funding for programs and  ensuring survivors have access to services, housing, and economic stability; waiving grant match requirements; ensuring immigrants have access to health, safety, and stability; and addressing the long term impacts of this crisis on survivors by addressing dwindling deposits into the Crime Victims Fund. We’re counting on you to protect victims and survivors.”

Submit op-eds and letters to the editor at your local newspaper.

For anyone affected by abuse and needing support, call 1-800-799-7233, or if you are unable to speak safely, you can log onto thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. You are not alone.


Violet Rawlings is a junior at Smith College double majoring in the Study of Women & Gender and Film & Media Studies.