Statement Condemning Contemptible Behavior of National Leadership Toward Kavanaugh Accusers

We are appalled and outraged that the Senate Judiciary Committee leadership has released a statement about comments of a sexual nature allegedly made by Julie Swetnick. Such a statement is unacceptable in all events, but particularly because it attempts to smear someone who has not had the opportunity to be interviewed by the FBI.  The release of this statement violates the intent of the Rape Shield Rule drafted by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 and voted into law by Congress in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. This federal rule is meant to safeguard the victim against the invasion of privacy, potential embarrassment and sexual stereotyping that is associated with public disclosure of intimate sexual details and the infusion of sexual innuendo into the factfinding process. The Senate Judiciary Committee has posted this statement on its website, in violation of the spirit of its own Rule.

In a sworn statement, Ms. Swetnick states she was sexually assaulted. Yet to date, she has not been interviewed by the FBI. Nevertheless, Senate leadership has engaged in a no-holds-barred personal attack on her.  It is not unusual for a survivor to describe an experience of sexual violence in ways that do not reveal the full reality of the experience or to try and normalize the experience. However, even aside from these very common reactions, it is unthinkable that the Senate Judiciary Committee would have released this statement publicly and attacked her in this way.

We are equally appalled and outraged by the President’s mocking of Dr. Blasey Ford on Tuesday. This behavior marks a new, and previously unimaginable, low point.  Through the tireless work of survivors, advocates and activists over the past decades, we have made progress in our national response to sexual assault.  Yet it seems the current majority leadership is bound and determined to set us back decades in our effort to help survivors feel comfortable coming forward.

We remind the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and all leaders that the country is watching. Women are watching as members and staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee try to shame a victim because of her alleged sexual history. Our children are watching as people who are supposed to be role models cheapen their offices and smear victims in an attempt to distract from a legitimate inquiry into the fitness of a Supreme Court candidate. Survivors are watching as people trivialize their experiences, mock them and make what was already an excruciatingly difficult decision to come forward that much more difficult.

This behavior is completely unacceptable. Ms. Swetnick, Dr. Ford, and all relevant witnesses must be interviewed, and these personal attacks and victim-blaming tactics must cease.   

For more information, contact Terri Poore at terri@endsexualviolence.org or Kiersten Stewart at kstewart@futureswithoutviolence.org.

VAWA Did Not Expire on September 30th

The Violence Against Women Act did not expire on September 30. Many stakeholders have expressed significant concerns about the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the impact the expiration would have on victims and survivors, particularly those in America’s most vulnerable communities, domestic violence and sexual assault programs, and many others. While Congress must act immediately to reauthorize VAWA with targeted fixes and modest enhancements, only grants need reauthorization - the underlying law, including special tribal jurisdiction, protections for immigrant survivors, housing protections, civil rights protections, and similar provisions do not require reauthorization. This being said, VAWA has not expired - in an unnecessary ploy to allow Congress to avoid taking meaningful action until after the midterm elections, Congress extended its authorization until December 7.

Moreover, funding for VAWA is maintained at Fiscal Year 2018 levels as part of the continuing resolution funding the Department of Justice. It is currently funded through December 7. We fully expect Congress to finalize the Fiscal Year 2019 by December 7, and, as has historically been the case, to continue to fund VAWA in future appropriations, whether or not it has expired. Congress frequently funds unauthorized programs - approximately 25% of federal programs are currently unauthorized, including the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  

We call on Congress to pass a bipartisan reauthorization bill that bolsters America’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, closing gaps in previous iterations of VAWA and responding to emerging issues identified by direct service providers, survivors, and other experts - and reauthorize grant programs for another five years with an increased investment in prevention. VAWA has always been, and must always be, a bipartisan commitment to improve access to safety and justice, to prevent future violence, and to uphold the dignity and autonomy of all victims and survivors.

Public Charge regulation harms immigrant families and puts victims of sexual assault and domestic violence at risk

The Department of Homeland Security posted on its website Saturday what is likely to be a proposed rule putting immigrant families, including children, at risk if they use public programs to escape abuse and meet basic needs like food, housing, and health care. This cruel rule would put many families in the untenable position of having to choose between using critical programs available to them or risk reuniting with their loved ones. The proposal would undermine efforts by victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to secure essential services that enable them to escape from or overcome abuse.

The proposed rule radically changes the “public charge” provision by expanding the range of programs and supports that can be counted against an immigrant victim applying for a visa or green card, and setting up strict disqualification criteria that will harshly impact victims. Advocates are seeing the chilling effects of this policy as more and more immigrants and citizens alike, including victims and their families, are already foregoing critical services.

Many victims seeking certain forms of immigration status are exempt from public charge, including victims who are refugees and asylees or victims seeking status through the T (trafficking) or U (crime victim) visa process, status as abused or neglected children (SIJS), or status under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). However, victims and their family members who do not seek immigration status in those categories will be harmed as a consequence of an expanded public charge rule.

“This rule is yet another example of the Administration undermining critical immigration protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Grace Huang, Policy Director at the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence. “If the goal of this inhumane proposal is to target immigrant families, sow fear in immigrant communities, and increase human suffering, then job done. We strongly oppose any change to the public charge rule which makes it more difficult for survivors of

Media Contacts:

domestic violence or sexual assault to access critical protections they need to escape or recover from abuse.”

“This policy is about inflicting trauma and cruelty on children and families,” said Kiersten Stewart, Director of Public Policy for Futures Without Violence. “We should be doing the exact opposite – helping families escape abuse and heal from trauma so they can survive and thrive”

Not only does the public charge rule undermine federal and state policies to support victims by discouraging them from accessing critical services, the proposed rule exacerbates the harmful impacts of the abuse by keeping them trapped in abusive relationships, or undermining their ability to reunite with supportive family members if they leave the abuse. Particularly when minimum wage work places families well below the poverty level, safety-net benefits help survivors afford the basics, such as food, housing, and healthcare, and to rebuild their lives after violence. Access to services and economic supports help victims make the difficult decision whether and how they can afford to leave a dangerous situation, and in planning how to keep themselves and their children healthy, well, and housed. In addition, access to health and counseling resources are critical for the long-term recovery from the trauma that victims have experienced. Without sufficient resources, victims are either compelled back into an abusive relationship, or face destitution and homelessness. The impacts on victims and their children have long term implications for the health and safety of our communities at large.

The National Task Force to End Sexual & Domestic Violence (NTF) is joining hundreds of organizations around the country to comment on the impact of the rule and encouraging concerned members of the public to comment by mail or through the federal website at www.regulations.gov.

Media Contacts:

Charlie McAteer, 917-696-1321, charlie@frontflipchange.com
Grace Huang, 206-420-7369, ghuang@api-gbv.org
Kiersten Stewart, 202-595-7383, kstewart@futureswithoutviolence.org
Archi Pyati, 571-356-9493, archip@tahirih.org

###

Letter to Senate Leadership RE: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

September 21, 2018

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley

 

Dear Senators:

As you know, the member organizations of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) represent millions of survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, the professionals who serve these survivors, the faith organizations that support them, the schools that educate them, and the businesses and communities that care about them throughout the United States and its Territories. The NTF has worked for twenty-four years to ensure that federal, tribal, state, territorial, and local governments and communities address the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. We are dedicated to keeping survivors safe and free from continuing trauma, while holding perpetrators accountable.  One of the primary tools we have to do our work is the Violence Against Women Act. We write now to apprise you of our intention to disengage from negotiations over VAWA reauthorization, and of the important reasons for this decision.

VAWA’s enactment in 1994 was a watershed moment for our nation. Its passage meant that our federal government finally acknowledged that domestic and sexual violence cause tremendous harm to individuals and society, and allocated resources to helping victims, improving the response of courts, prosecutors and law enforcement, and holding perpetrators accountable. Millions of people are better off as a result.

It’s time – way past time – to do much more to end this violence, and to protect our communities. That means investing more in prevention. That means increasing access to justice and safety for Native women. That means holding perpetrators accountable rather than punishing victims, and improving enforcement of protective orders. That means reducing homicides by ending abusers’ easy access to firearms. That means ensuring victims have access to safe housing and economic stability. That means reauthorizing VAWA with modest but meaningful improvements that enhance our nation’s response to these heinous crimes. That means moving forward - never backwards and never remaining static. This has been the trajectory of VAWA over the past twenty-four years: each time it has been reauthorized in a bipartisan manner with improvements to continue to enhance our nation’s response and prevention efforts.

The Steering Committee of the NTF has been working with community stakeholders and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle for more than two years to develop and promote the best possible VAWA reauthorization bill for 2018.

However, we have grave concerns about the way the Senate Judiciary committee, under current leadership, has failed to demonstrate the lessons learned through the implementation of VAWA over the past twenty-four years. If the committee is not willing to engage in a process that upholds the dignity and safety of a person who has come forward to report that she was a victim of sexual assault, then they cannot pretend to care about the reauthorization of VAWA.  We will only engage in discussions with those members of Congress committed to doing this work with integrity; with those who not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk—regardless of party.  

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s deeply troubling and highly credible allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, unwillingly made public, have put the issues of victim autonomy and safety, trauma-informed response, and proper investigation and assessment at center stage for the nation.

This, of all times, is the moment for your offices to demonstrate the great progress we have made as a country in our response to victims of gender-based violence. This is the moment for you to show that you are serious about implementing best practices for addressing sexual assault, and that you are committed to the work that VAWA makes possible in communities across the country. You could have—you should have—set an example for our country in your treatment of Professor Ford and her allegations. As subject matter experts, we have been available to you for advice and consultation for months, and we would have gladly assisted. 

Instead, your actions and comments in the past week have taken us back 25 years, as if VAWA never existed, as if all of the hard-won, evidence-based, best practices we have invested in as a nation were for naught. How can Congress legislate a coordinated community response for the nation, yet fail to live up to its own mandate?

This moment has become a crucible. It’s a test of our progress. Do we start by believing victims of sexual assault and treating them with dignity, or don’t we? So far, Senate leaders are failing that test. Prejudging the outcome of the hearing. Sympathizing with her perpetrator. Attacking her credibility. The public vitriol has been even louder and more toxic. She now must live in fear for her own safety and that of her children, and has had to flee her home and hire security. 

These attacks need to stop now. They send a message to every victim of sexual violence that their pain doesn’t matter, that they do not deserve justice, that – for them – fair treatment is out of reach. This will only serve to drive victims into the shadows and further embolden abusers.  

This is not a case of “he said, she said” – Professor Ford provided a detailed account, along with therapist notes from six years ago, and passed a lie detector test.  More corroborating evidence may be available if an investigation is undertaken. Yet she has faced death threats and has had to endure suspicion, ridicule, defamation, and scorn. Her identity was revealed without her consent, her motives have been questioned and her credibility has been attacked.  And now she’s being told effectively that she must be put on trial – immediately — before there is even a cursory independent investigation that could support her report.

No one is suggesting the committee ought to simply accept an allegation. In fact, as advocates, we are urging you to conduct a thorough investigation. But no fair investigation begins with attacking and trying to discredit the alleged victim. Congress must enlist the advice from experts to ensure they are educated in how to engage in trauma-informed questioning of Professor Ford. She is NOT on trial. She is not alleged to have done anything wrong. She is a person with important information about a man to whom you are about to offer a lifetime appointment on our nation’s highest court.

So, what should the process look like instead? As we explained in our September 18 letter to Senators Grassley and Feinstein, we propose three ground rules:

1.     First, consult with experts on sexual violence and trauma now. What you learn will help you make this process fair. Any hearing must include expert witnesses.  

2.     Second, conduct a comprehensive, bipartisan investigation. The notion that she should be cross-examined by Judge Kavanaugh’s attorney, interviewed by Senate staff with no training in sexual assault investigations, or called to testify with just a few days’ notice and told to take it or leave it, is insulting. It’s not a search for the truth; it’s a strategy to win a political game. Recognize that she is being traumatized again by this entire process, and needs support.

3.     Third, adhere to basic tenets of a trauma-informed approach:

·       Provide Professor Ford as much input as possible into the time, date and format of any questioning;

·       Ensure a safe and comfortable environment;

·       Allow her to have support people with her and to take breaks as needed;

·       Provide her with clear information about the process and allow her to ask questions and ask for clarification as needed;

·       Repudiate personal attacks on Professor Ford;

·       Refrain from inaccurate, stereotypical assumptions that have been refuted by research, such as suggestions that delayed reports of sexual assault are not credible or gaps in memory suggest dishonesty or emotions undermine credibility. None of that is true, as extensive research on the neurobiology of trauma has revealed.

Finally, we want Senators and the nation to understand that this is much bigger than a single Supreme Court nominee. This is about the 15-year-old girl who finds herself hiding in the bathroom, terrified. She is thinking “Is this how I will be treated if I come forward?” And the 17-year-old boy who finds himself emboldened to take without consent? He too is watching, and learning.

In this very public arena, with these incredibly high stakes, we need to get this right. What the Senate does next will send a message to victims and offenders everywhere, whether or not you intend to send a message.  And what will that message be? 

Justice demands a fair process that treats Professor Ford far better than with the derision, scorn, and humiliation to which Professor Hill was subjected 27 years ago.

 Justice demands that we respect that Professor Ford is a survivor of trauma, and that the Senate Judiciary Committee hear from experts on the lasting impact of trauma on survivors.

Justice demands that the hearing process be paused while the FBI reopens its investigation and talks to any witnesses with knowledge that bears on the information that Professor Ford has provided.

And finally, justice demands that the American people have confidence not only in the integrity and honesty of those who sit on the highest court, but also those responsible for giving their “advice and consent” to the President, and the process by which they give it. 

Senators, you can’t send that message with your words – you can only send it with your actions.

For more information, please contact Terri Poore at terri@endsexualviolence.org.

Sincerely,

The Steering Committee of National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence

NTF Letter to Senators RE: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

September 18, 2018

 

The Honorable Chuck Grassley                             The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Chairman                                                                   Ranking Member
Senate Judiciary Committee                                              Senate Judiciary Committee
135 Hart Senate Office Building                            331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510                                          Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein:

The member organizations of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) represent millions of survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, the professionals who serve these survivors, the faith organizations that support them, the schools that educate them, and the businesses and communities that care about them throughout the United States and territories. The NTF has worked for twenty years to ensure that federal, tribal, state, and local governments and communities address the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  We are dedicated to keeping survivors safe and free from continuing trauma, while holding perpetrators accountable. 

We write to express our opposition to the reported new process for assessing Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve as a Supreme Court Justice given recent reports of his sexual assault against a fellow high school student. We understand the Judiciary Committee’s keen interest in speaking to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who shared her story with a Member of Congress earlier this summer. However, we respectfully request that you consult with her as to the best time and manner for her to speak with you.

Importantly, with regard to your process, Dr.  Ford is not on trial.  She is a survivor of sexual assault who may or may not choose to share her story publicly. Your process is not a trial. It is an effort to gather information about the fitness of a man poised to receive a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. As advocates for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, we must strongly request you treat her in a victim-centered, trauma-informed manner.

 

Specifically:

We ask that you slow down the nomination process and allow a comprehensive, bipartisan investigation of the allegations out of the public eye. Dr. Ford was courageous in sharing her story. We are outraged to learn that some are suggesting she be cross-examined at an upcoming hearing by Judge Kavanaugh’s attorney; speak on the phone or be interviewed by staff about the incident; and/or be immediately called to testify before the committee. This suggests a rushed, adversarial process designed to intimidate or discredit her. Not only is this problematic for your process, it would also be deeply traumatizing for any survivor. A thorough investigation, wherein she is listened to objectively and any other relevant witnesses are spoken to, must be completed before any hearing is scheduled.

We strongly encourage you to consult with experts on the issues of sexual violence and trauma before deciding how to proceed with a future public hearing and to include expert witnesses on these issues at any public hearing.

Finally, we urge you to adhere to some basic tenets of a trauma-informed approach. For example:

·      Providing Dr. Ford as much input as possible into the time, date, and format of questioning.

·      Ensuring a safe and comfortable environment (emotionally and physically) for any questioning or hearing.

·      Allowing Dr.  Ford to have support people with her and take breaks as needed.

·      Repudiating any personal attacks on Dr. Ford.

·      Providing clear information to Dr. Ford about the process and encouraging and allowing her to ask questions and ask for clarification as needed ahead of time and throughout the process.

·      Refraining from inaccurate, stereotypical assumptions and negative judgments that have been refuted by research such as a suggestions that delayed reports of sexual assault are not credible; attacking credibility based on gaps in memory; and suggesting emotional presentation reflects on credibility.

Thank you for considering our requests. We stand ready to assist you in ensuring the process is fair. Please contact Terri Poore at terri@endsexualviolence with any questions.

Sincerely,

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence

NTF Statement: Senate Must Delay Vote for SCOTUS Nominee

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) calls on Congress to postpone the vote on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court until a comprehensive, bipartisan, and respectful investigation into the allegations raised by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has been completed. Dr. Blasey Ford has indicated, through counsel, that she is prepared to testify publicly, and her voice should be heard before Congress does anything further relating to the Kavanaugh nomination.

The member organizations of the NTF represent millions of survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, the professionals who serve these survivors, the faith organizations that support them, the schools that educate them, and the businesses and communities that care about them throughout the United States and territories. The NTF has worked for twenty years to ensure that federal, tribal, state, and local governments and communities address the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  We are dedicated to keeping survivors safe and free from continuing trauma, while holding perpetrators accountable. 

Our national culture still fails to recognize the impact of these crimes on survivors. On too many occasions, survivors are blamed for the crimes they have suffered. On too many occasions, survivors’ personal lives are upended and subjected to often prurient scrutiny, exposing them to re-victimizing trauma. On too many occasions, offenders are not held accountable and worse, receive more support and empathy than the victims of their crimes. It is no wonder that so many survivors hesitate to come forward.

As we all learned on Sunday, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a college professor, provided confidential information to Senator Feinstein in the form of a letter alleging that Judge Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when both of them were in high school. She provided Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Senator Feinstein with evidence related to her statement, but also asked that both lawmakers keep the information confidential, out of fear of “annihilation” at the hands of Congress and the media. 

Senator Feinstein’s and Congresswoman Eshoo’s offices each had an important policy of providing confidentiality to victims of crime, in order to ensure their safety and to protect them from trauma, and so neither office released any information they received from Dr. Blasey Ford. We applaud their decision.

Yet even though Congresswoman Eshoo and Senator Feinstein honored Dr. Blasey Ford’s request for confidentiality, others did not, and her story was leaked to the media.  And as public speculation increased, Dr. Blasey Ford has said she realized that her wish to keep the information confidential was hopeless. As the Washington Post reported on Sunday:

“As the story snowballed, Ford said, she heard people repeating inaccuracies about her and, with the visits from reporters, felt her privacy being chipped away. Her calculation changed.

“These are all the ills that I was trying to avoid,” she said, explaining her decision to come forward. “Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.”

Those last six words of her statement are painfully familiar to survivors of sexual assault and the victim advocates who help them.

Again and again, we have seen the vilification of women who come forward to share their experiences of violence at the hands of powerful men. Many survivors do not want to make their identities public, because they expect to be excoriated and re-victimized by complete strangers in the media and on Twitter, Facebook, in emails, or in text messages.

Now that the Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has come forward publicly, it is imperative that the Senate allow time for her credible allegations to be fully investigated by postponing the vote on Judge Kavanaugh. Survivors throughout our nation are watching to see how this is handled, and as victim advocates, we urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to treat Dr. Ford with the respect and consideration she deserves.

 

For more information, please contact Terri Poore at terri@endsexualviolence.org.

NTF Letter RE: Kavanaugh Nomination

Dear Senator:

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF), comprising national, state, tribal, territorial, and local leadership organizations representing thousands of advocates and others working to end domestic violence and sexual assault, writes to express our deep concern about the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy on the US Supreme Court. In addition to concerns noted in a prior letter about the lack of documents shared from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House, we are particularly troubled by the impact of this nomination on the safety, health, rights, and well-being of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors as it relates to firearms, reproductive rights, health care, and privacy, as well as larger issues of judicial independence.

Domestic Abusers’ Access to Firearms
In America, abused women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a firearm, and domestic violence assaults involving a gun are 12 times more likely to end in death than assaults with other weapons or physical harm.1 In a 2004 survey of female domestic violence shelter residents in California, more than a third reported having been threatened or harmed with a firearm.2 In nearly two thirds of cases in which a gun was present in a household shared by a domestic abuser and victim, the abuser had used the firearm against the victim, usually threatening to shoot or kill her.3

Judge Kavanaugh’s record of ruling against gun violence protection measures is a direct threat to survivors of domestic violence. After the Supreme Court decided 5-4 in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to bear arms, Washington, DC passed laws that prohibited assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and that required certain firearms to be registered. The same plaintiff, Richard Heller, argued again that the new gun laws violated the Second Amendment. In the 2011 case Heller v. District of Columbia, a panel of three Republican-appointed judges ruled 2-1 that DC’s ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines was constitutional. In Judge Kavanaugh’s dissent, he held that the ban on assault weapons was unconstitutional. He wrote: “In Heller, the Supreme Court held that handguns — the vast majority of which today are semi-automatic — are constitutionally protected because they have not traditionally been banned and are in common use by law-abiding citizens. There is no meaningful or persuasive constitutional distinction between semi-automatic handguns and semi-automatic rifles.”4

It is troubling that Judge Kavanaugh sees no difference between assault weapons and handguns. As a candidate, President Trump stated: “I’m very proud to have the endorsement of the NRA and it was the earliest endorsement they’ve ever given to anybody who ran for president…. We are going to appoint justices that will feel very strongly about the Second Amendment.” Judge Kavanaugh clearly passes this litmus test. This is deeply alarming given the well-documented intersection of domestic violence and firearms.

Reproductive Rights
We believe that every person has the right to control what happens to their body, free from coercion or fear. This freedom should not be limited to the ability to accept or reject sexual experiences, rather, true bodily autonomy requires that an individual can make informed decisions about involvement in any experience: sexual, medical, or otherwise5.
The right to access abortion safely and legally in this country will likely disappear if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed. President Trump has been explicit that he would only nominate someone who would “automatically overturn” Roe v. Wade. Judge Kavanaugh was on the list of candidates who met that criteria, compiled by the uber-conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. In the well-known “Jane Doe” case, Kavanaugh tried to block a young immigrant woman’s access to abortion care, claiming that the court was creating “a new right” for immigrants in custody “to obtain immediate abortion on demand.” Over Kavanaugh’s dissent, the DC Circuit rightly allowed the young woman to seek the medical care she needed. While abortion rights are not a focus of all of our organizations, the right to bodily autonomy and personal decision making is. These concepts are at the heart of our movement to end domestic and sexual violence.

Affordable Care Act
As a DC Circuit Court Judge, Kavanaugh dissented from the opinion upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And, just weeks before being added to President Trump’s aforementioned short list of potential candidates, Kavanaugh criticized Chief Justice Roberts for the reasoning he used in NFIB v. Sebelius to uphold the ACA’s individual mandate. If Kavanaugh were confirmed, millions of Americans — including survivors of domestic and sexual violence — would likely lose their health care. The ACA not only expanded health insurance coverage to millions of individuals who were previously uninsured, it changed the landscape for women’s health insurance coverage and access. Thanks to the ACA, domestic and sexual violence survivors cannot be charged more for, or be turned away from, health coverage.

Prior to the ACA, insurance companies denied coverage to women based upon “pre-existing conditions,” such as receiving medical treatment for domestic or sexual violence. In fact, seven states allowed health plans to deny coverage based on a history of domestic violence — and only 22 states had limited protections against plans using domestic violence as a pre-existing condition.6

Privacy and Technology
Judge Kavanagh has made disturbing comments about expectations of privacy on smartphones in criminal law cases. He has expressed the opinion that phone companies operate as "third parties" that destroy any expectation of privilege or privacy — an opinion that is in opposition to existing Supreme Court holdings on the issue. This would be a terrifying outcome if this position became the standard in the law for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Survivors use their smartphones to search for and access confidential help in fleeing abuse. Abusers routinely try to obtain this information by seeking discovery regarding their confidential communications with victim advocacy organizations. If Judge Kavanagh's position is adopted, survivors will have no ability to seek help confidentially.

Judicial Deference to Federal Agencies
In a February 2017 speech at Notre Dame Law School, Kavanaugh made it a point to criticize a legal precedent that supports judicial deference to agency actions (known as the Chevron doctrine), stating that it “encourages agency aggressiveness on a large scale” and arguing that “Courts [should] no longer defer to agency interpretations of statutes.” Such disregard for scientific integrity, subject matter experts, and the critical role of government protections is concerning. For more than three decades, since 1984, the Supreme Court has required judges to defer to administrative agencies’ interpretations of federal law in most cases where the law is “ambiguous” and the agency’s position is “reasonable.” Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia defended the Chevron doctrine as an important rule-of-law principle.

Federal agencies issue regulations addressing a wide array of issues, including firearm protections by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Overturning the Chevron precedent would return that ultimate decision-making authority to judges rather than the subject-matter experts, inviting a challenge to every regulation and rule in the federal government. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would invite attacks on the regulations that govern protection orders and misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence prohibitors, and other protections and programs directly impacting domestic and sexual violence.

Knowledge of Ongoing Sexual Assault by a Federal Judge
Judge Kavanaugh clerked for Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit and has reportedly remained close to his former boss, who left the Ninth Circuit in late 2017 after over a dozen allegations of sexual harassment by his former clerks. Long before the Washington Post exposed the allegations against him in 2017 7, Kozinski’s sexualized and abusive behavior was an open secret in the legal profession.8 Kavanaugh and Kozinski reportedly worked together for years as “screeners” for Justice Kennedy, essentially hiring the Justice’s clerks for him. This process led to many applicants who had previously clerked for Kozinski obtaining clerkships with Justice Kennedy. As a result, Kavanaugh helped maintain the prestige of a Kozinski clerkship, which no doubt had the effect of encouraging many young attorneys to continue to seek Kozinski clerkships despite the widespread rumors of abusive behavior.

The White House has asserted that Judge Kavanaugh “had never heard any allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment” by Kozinski prior to the story becoming public last year, but some in the legal community have asserted that this strains credulity. Judge Kavanaugh must speak fully to the question of what he knew about Kozinski’s abusive behavior, when he learned of it, and what actions he took in response. Too much is at stake for women for the Senate to move forward on his nomination without a thorough vetting of these questions.

Belief that the President is Above the Law
The overreach of the Trump Administration — as well as President Trump’s unabashed disrespect for independent judges — underscores why we need a Supreme Court that will serve as a check on politicians in all branches of government. Judge Kavanaugh’s writings demonstrate that he would be anything but an independent check on the executive branch. He wrote that a sitting president should never be able to be criminally indicted, and that the president “should have absolute discretion” to decide whether and when he can be investigated, as well as decide who can conduct that investigation. As if that weren’t enough, he thinks any special prosecutor should be removable at will by the president. The president isn’t above the law — but Judge Kavanaugh thinks he is.

The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court threatens women’s reproductive rights and access to healthcare for all Americans. The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of our most cherished rights, and it is no place for someone so far outside of the mainstream who will roll back the clock on hard-won freedoms and rubber stamp the Trump Administration’s dangerous agenda. In addition to our specific concerns as advocates for the safety, health, rights and well-being of survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families, we join many others in raising broader concerns about Judge Kavanaugh's extreme views on issues of key importance to all Americans.

For questions or more information, please contact:
Jody Rabhan, Director of Washington Operations, National Council of Jewish Women
JRabhan@ncjw.org


Lisalyn R. Jacobs, CEO, Just Solutions
lrjust.solutions@gmail.com

 

1Giffords Law Center. “Domestic Violence & Firearms.” 2017. http://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/who-can-have-a-gun/domestic-violence-firearms/
2 Susan B. Sorenson et al., Weapons in the Lives of Battered Women, 94 Am. J. Pub. Health 1412, 1413 (2004).
3 Giffords Law Center. “Domestic Violence & Firearms.” 2017. http://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/who-can-have-a-gun/domestic-violence-firearms/
4 United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. “District of Columbia v. Heller.” 2011. Page 47. https://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/DECA496973477C748525791F004D84F9/$file/10-7036-1333156.pdf
5 California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA), May 2, 2017.
6 https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/3-things-at-stake-aca/, January 10, 2017.
7 Prominent appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski accused of sexual misconduct. (Washington Post) December 8, 2017.
8 More Women Speak Out About Judge Kozinski’s Behavior; Say It Was An ‘Open Secret’ (Above the Law) December 11, 2017

NTF Letter RE: Kavanaugh Nomination Process

Dear Senator:
The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, a coalition comprising national, state, tribal, territorial and local leadership organizations representing thousands of advocates and others working to end domestic violence and sexual assault, writes to express our objection to the holding of confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh regarding the current vacancy on the US Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of our laws and Constitution, and its rulings dramatically impact our rights and freedoms. Every Supreme Court vacancy is significant, but the stakes could not be higher in deciding who will replace Justice Kennedy — who served as the deciding vote in nearly all the momentous cases of the past dozen years. Critical civil and human rights issues hang in the balance, yet vital documents that bear on Judge Kavanaugh’s fitness to serve on the Supreme Court have not yet been produced. Moreover, some key documents have not yet been requested. Therefore, it is imperative that the Senate Judiciary Committee not hold Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing until such time as all relevant documents have been produced and appropriate time afforded for their review.

Each Senator has an obligation to independently review Kavanaugh’s entire record, a significant portion of which has not yet been disclosed. Additionally, as recently highlighted by Senator Patrick Leahy, a former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Republicans have refused to request any documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s 3-year tenure as White House Staff Secretary, a time period described by the Judge himself as “the most interesting and … among the most instructive.” We share Senator Leahy’s concern regarding the absence of adequate transparency from both the White House and Senate Judiciary Republicans, and are therefore concerned that the Senate will be unable to fulfill its constitutionally mandated role of “advise and consent,” with respect to Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination.

This is not a process that should be rushed, nor should it be shortchanged. Added to the failure of the Senate majority to request all relevant documents, then afford time for them to be produced and reviewed, is the stampede to hold a hearing before all the relevant documents become available. Senator Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley’s decision is unprecedented. The National Archives will not be able to make public the documents already requested before October, and these only represent 1% of the materials from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House, yet Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing is scheduled to commence in early September.

Hundreds of thousands of documents relevant to the nominee’s record remain to be either requested and/or released. It is a dereliction of Senators’ constitutional duty to simply allow one’s political party to determine approval of such an impactful appointment before that record is made public and reviewed thoroughly. The American people are represented in this crucial process in the Senate. The independent vetting that Supreme Court candidates receive has long been rigorous and this instance should be no exception. Justice Kennedy himself was not the first nominee to the seat he is vacating. Two nominees before him failed because of the Senate’s role, and the nation was better for it.

The National Task Force will continue to assess Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications and fitness based on his available record. Not only do we hope to share our insights with Judiciary Committee members, we owe it to survivors and advocates to share with them how this nominee could impact the laws and policies that affect them most significantly. In conclusion, however, it is shocking and irresponsible that without all relevant documents, the Senate would act so precipitously as to hold hearings, thereby depriving themselves and the American people of crucial information The Senate owes survivors and the American people more.

For questions or more information, please contact:
Jody Rabhan
Director of Washington Operations
National Council of Jewish Women
JRabhan@ncjw.org


Lisalyn R. Jacobs
CEO
Just Solutions
lrjust.solutions@gmail.com

Action Alert: Propel VAWA Forward Today

The #MeToo movement has shown that we need national attention to address the needs of survivors of gender-based violence. It also is a call to organizational and individual advocates to work as one to prevent and end this harassment, battery, assault and rape. It is critical that policymakers respond to this powerful movement by supporting policies and programs that support survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. But right now, Congress is sitting on a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (H.R.6545), one of the nation’s single most effective tools in responding to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This bill needs many more supporters if we are going to avoid the expiration of VAWA which is only authorized through September 30, 2018.

We are calling on you today to help us ensure that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) gets reauthorized, with all of the new critical proposals that are included in the current reauthorization bill: housing protections, protection from abusers with guns, justice for survivors on tribal land and increased prevention funding.

There are three key things you can do right now to propel VAWA forward today:

  1. Call your Representative right now. If they haven’t signed on as a co-sponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 6545), ask them to do so immediately. VAWA has always been bipartisan in the past, so it is particularly important to get support from Republican Representatives. If your Representative has signed on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 6545, please call them and thank them. Use this link to find your Representative, and then check out this list to see if they have signed on to support VAWA yet.
  2. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor for your local paper about the importance of reauthorizing VAWA. Members of Congress and their staff closely monitor local media, and if your Representative knows that there is community support for this, they’re more likely to support VAWA. See our templates here, and check out this great resource from The Op-Ed Guide and Indivisible about how to write and submit a great op-ed on an issue that matters to you.
  3. Sign a letter of support. If you’re part of an organization that would care about this topic, such as a workplace or a local organizing group, you can sign on to our letter of support from organizations here. We’ll be delivering this to Congress next month as evidence of widespread support of reauthorizing VAWA.

AND

If you want to learn more about VAWA and the critical enhancements in H.R. 6545 register for a webinar hosted by the NTF titled “VAWA Reauthorization: What’s in it, and what happens next.”

Let’s put the pressure on, and move VAWA’s passage forward today. With your help, we know we can do it!   For more information, contact Dorian Karp at dkarp@jwi.org.

More Details

If your Member is not a sponsor, please contact them with this message: We need the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized now.  Survivors can’t wait for lifesaving responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced H.R. 6545, moderate legislation reauthorizing VAWA that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle can support. Please co-sponsor this legislation today!

If a staff person acts like their Member might sponsor, please send their contact info to patreuss@verizon.net or your group’s policy person working on VAWA (including name of their Member and state) and we’ll get other groups to call in support.  If they say “yes she/he will sponsor,” let Pat or organizational contact know but also advise them to contact Rep. Jackson Lee’s staff: Monalisa Dugué, (202) 225-6906 Monalisa.dugue@mail.house.gov<mailto:Monalisa.dugue@mail.house.gov.  

What does the bill do?

  • Increases authorization for the Rape Prevention & Education Program from $50 million to $150 million to address skyrocketing need and demand for community prevention programs.
  • Returns sovereignty to tribes to prosecute non-native offenders of sexual assault, trafficking, stalking, and child abuse.
  • Adds new definitions including Abuse in Later Life; Alternative Justice Response; Digital Services; Forced Marriage; Economic Abuse; and Technological Abuse and updates the definition of domestic violence.
  • Strengthens public housing protections for survivors including those seeking housing transfers based on safety concerns.
  • Adds a new purpose to the Improving Criminal Justice Response grant program to implement alternative justice responses that are focused on victim autonomy, agency and safety to provide resolution and restitution for the victim.
  • Strengthens privacy protections across state line, online with digital records, and preserves confidentiality upon survivor’s death in accordance with their wishes.
  • Acknowledges the trauma of incarceration on women and their family members, especially their children, and improves health care services and trauma informed responses to better prepare incarcerated women to return to their communities.
  • Improves enforcement of current federal domestic violence-related firearms laws and closes loopholes to reduce firearm-involved abuse and intimate partner homicide.
  • Expands VAWA’s ability to respond to sexual harassment.

Know that as you’re making your phone calls, we’re meeting with leaders in both the House and Senate to find additional support and bipartisan sponsors for a VAWA bill that protects all survivors.  

Together, we can insist Congress passes a strong, bipartisan bill that protects ALL survivors and prevents domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in our communities!

Join us on Social Media!

The hashtags for VAWA reauthorization are #VAWA4All and #VAWA18.

Congressional Twitter handles and Facebook accounts can be found here.

Example tweets with hashtag.

  • Tweets that already exist for VAWA 2018
  • I strongly support programs that prevent sexual and gender-based violence and protect individuals who have experienced violence. [@YourRepresentative], now is the time to reauthorize #VAWA18
  • Our world sees too much violence, and women are particularly impacted. [@YourRepresentative], act to prevent abuse and violence by reauthorizing #VAWA4All.
  • New Sample Tweets
  • Survivors can’t wait for lifesaving responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. [@YourRepresentative], now is the time to reauthorize #VAWA4All.
  • [@YourRepresentative], stand in solidarity with victims of gender-based violence. Support the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act! #VAWA18
  • All people deserve to lead violence-free lives, Congress has a duty to uphold this right! #VAWA18.

Program Specific

  • [@YourRepresentative], gender-based violence happens in our community, too. Reauthorize #VAWA4All and support prevention and education programs that keep our jurisdiction safes
  • Violence doesn’t discriminate and neither should our laws! [@YourRepresentative] support #VAWA4All and ensure Native survivors of gender-based violence have access to justice on tribal lands!
  • Violence doesn’t discriminate and neither should our laws! [@YourRepresentative], support #VAWA18 and ensure incarcerated survivors of gender-based violence have access to trauma-informed care!
  • [@YourRepresentative], support #VAWAReauth and ensure survivors of domestic abuse access to safe housing!
  • [@YourRepresentative], reducing access to firearms saves lives! Support #VAWA18 and help prevent firearm-involved intimate partner homicides.
  • Reauthorize #VAWA4ALL so schools are equipped to protect young survivors! #VAWA18
  • Young survivors can’t wait for lifesaving responses to dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Now is the time to reauthorize #VAWA4All
  • [@YourRepresentative], gender-based violence happens in our community and young people are at particular risk! Reauthorize #VAWA4All and support prevention and education programs that keep young people safe!
  • Young people deserve to lead violence-free lives, Congress has a duty to uphold this right! #VAWA18
  • Violence doesn’t discriminate and neither should our laws! [@YourRepresentative], support #VAWA18 and ensure young survivors of gender-based violence have access to justice!

For questions and more information, please contact Dorian Karp dkarp@jwi.org and she will help you or refer you to the appropriate party.

NTF Letter of Support for Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Dear Representative Sheila Jackson Lee,

We, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (“NTF”), applaud you for introducing the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2018.  The NTF is a national collaboration comprising a large and diverse group of national, tribal, state, territorial, and local organizations, advocates, and individuals that focuses on the development, passage and implementation of effective public policy to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (“the four crimes”).  Your bill makes modest yet vital updates to the existing Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) that are based on the needs identified by direct service providers who work daily with victims and survivors of the four crimes. We appreciate your shared commitment to passing a bipartisan Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2018 that is tailored to appeal to Members of Congress across the political spectrum.

Your bill makes important investments in prevention, a priority identified not only by people who work with victims and survivors daily but also by the bipartisan Women’s Caucus.  Providing resources to implement evidence-based prevention programming makes our communities safer and, ultimately, saves taxpayers money. It also safeguards important protections that ensure all victims and survivors have access to safety and justice and provides a mechanism to hold predators who prey on Native women accountable. Moreover, it provides law enforcement with new tools to protect their communities, offers protections for survivors in federal public, subsidized, and assisted housing, supports victims and survivors who need assistance rebuilding financially, addresses the needs of underserved communities, and improves the healthcare response to the four crimes.

In short, the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2018 is a narrow bill with a wide impact.  We hope that your colleagues on both sides of the aisle will recognize the importance of this legislation to their constituents and join us in supporting it.  Thank you, again, for being a champion for victims and survivors.

Sincerely,

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence