Violence Against Women Act

Copy and Paste a Weekly Tweet in Support of VAWA!

On April 4th, the House of Representatives passed H.R.1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (VAWA), with strong bipartisan support. It is time for the Senate to take action on a substantially similar bill that maintains important protections for vulnerable survivors while making critical enhancements to prevent and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

We must keep the pressure up on the Senate! Senators need to know their constituents care - and are watching!

We are asking you to post one tweet a week on WEDNESDAYS AT 3:00 PM EST/12:00 PST until the END OF AUGUST. You can COPY and PASTE tweets and graphics from THIS LIST or write your own! Hashtags are #VAWA2019 and #VAWA4All!

You can find your Senators’ social media handles here.

Don’t forget to add a weekly reminder to your calendar - with a link to the tweets!

With your help, we can get VAWA past the finish line!

ACTION ALERT: VAWA PROTECTIONS UNDER ATTACK!!!

Your members of Congress are home for the recess! Go to town hall meetings, write op-eds, call them, or use social media to get them to do the right thing!

PASS VAWA 2019 H.R. 1585 without adding any harmful restrictions. 

Then, join our call with Members of Congress and experts in the field on THURSDAY, MARCH 21 at 4:00 EST for the latest updates (see action item #5).

Please forward widely!

Two weeks ago, House Judiciary Crime subcommittee Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA-37) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) introduced H.R.1585, the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. H.R.1585 is a modest reauthorization bill that includes narrowly focused enhancements that address gaps identified by victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence and the people who work on the ground with them every day.

 

When H.R.1585 went through the House Judiciary Committee, several Representatives tried to roll back vital VAWA protections by:

●       Allowing non-Natives to prey on Native women on Tribal lands with impunity;

●       Allowing publicly-funded domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers to discriminate against survivors who they don’t like and turn away vulnerable victims in need of protection and help; and

●       Taking money away from communities and giving it to organizations like the NRA to teach people how to use guns.

 

Instead of committing to improve VAWA to address the identified needs of victims and survivors through moderate enhancements, other lawmakers introduced a year-long ‘straight reauthorization of VAWA (with no improvements) that ignores the identified needs of survivors. Lawmakers need to take a principled stand and fight for improved access to safety and justice for victims and survivors rather. Every moment Congress delays in passing much-needed updates puts more people at risk. In the era of #MeToo, we have the opportunity to make meaningful positive change to protect and support all survivors - anything less is unacceptable.

 

Congress must act NOW to pass H.R.1585!

 

There are five key things you can do to propel H.R.1585 forward today:

1.      Attend a town hall meeting or call your Representative right now and ask him/her to support H.R.1585. If they haven’t signed on as a co-sponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 1585), ask them to do so immediately. It is particularly important to get support from Republican Representatives. If your Representative has signed on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 1585, please call them and thank them. Use this link to find your Representative and his/her contact information, and then check out this list to see if they have signed on to support VAWA yet. Click HERE for a sample script.

2.      Attend a town hall meeting or call your Senators and ask them to support a bill in the Senate similar to H.R.1585. The Senate is currently writing their own VAWA bill. We need to make sure the Senate bill is substantially similar to H.R.1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. Use this link to find your Senators and their contact information. Click HERE for a sample script.

3.      Write an op-ed or letter to the editor for your local paper about the importance of reauthorizing VAWA with vital enhancements. Members of Congress and their staff closely monitor local media, and if your Representative knows that there is community support for H.R. 1585, they’re more likely to support it. Check out this great resource from The New York Times about how to write and submit an op-ed on an issue that matters to you. Click HERE for talking points.

4.      Contact your Members of Congress on social media. Make your support visible to everyone! Use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks to contact your Members of Congress. You can find their Facebook accounts and Twitter handles here. Click HERE for sample posts and for images to share.

5.      Join a call to learn more about H.R.1585 and the path forward in the House. After contacting your Members of Congress, join Representatives Bass and Fitzpatrick, who introduced the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, and experts in the field for a phone call for more information about what is in the bill and a discussion of what lies ahead. The call is on Thursday, March 21 at 4:00 EST. Click HERE to register.

If you have questions or want to report the outcome of your contacts with Members of Congress, please email rgraber@ncadv.org and dkarp@jwi.org.

 

ACTION ALERT: Call Your Members of Congress and Ask Them to Support H.R.1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019!!!

House Judiciary Crime subcommitte Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA-37) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) have just introduced H.R.1585, the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019! This important legislation reauthorizes VAWA grant programs and makes modest yet vital enhancements to existing law. Among other things, H.R.1585:

● Invests in prevention;

● Ends impunity for non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse co-occurring with domestic violence, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands;

● Improves enforcement of court orders that require adjudicated domestic abusers to relinquish their firearms;

● Improves access to housing for victims and survivors;

● Protects victims of dating violence from firearm homicide;

● Helps survivors gain and maintain economic independence;

● Updates the federal definition of domestic violence for the purposes of VAWA grants only to acknowledge the full range of abuse victims suffer (does not impact the criminal definition of domestic violence); 

● Maintains existing protections for all survivors; and

● Improves the healthcare system’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

Call your REPRESENTATIVE now and tell them to SPONSOR H.R.1585

Then call your SENATORS and tell them the Senate needs to introduce a bill WITH THE PROVISIONS in H.R.1585 - half-measures such as a straight reauthorization are not acceptable, nor are rollbacks of existing protections for survivors!

VAWA is Unauthorized -- Now What?

What does VAWA’s unauthorized status mean?

Authorization is different from appropriations:

●     Authorization created the laws and legislators can change or add to the laws each time it is reauthorized. Regardless of VAWA being unauthorized, the law of the land stays intact. Authorization occurs every 5 years.

●     Appropriations allows the government to spend money and outlines what money can be spent on. Appropriations occurs every year.

While VAWA’s status is currently unauthorized, this does not impact its funding for the 2019 fiscal year since money has already been appropriated for the fiscal year. Congress can continue to appropriate funds for a law even if it’s unauthorized.

The reauthorization process allows us to improve and expand services. We can accept some delay in reauthorizing VAWA to ensure the resulting bill improves investments in prevention and includes enhancements to better meet the identified needs of victims and survivors.

What are the implications for ...

●     the law?

As with other laws, only the VAWA grant program authorizations expire -- the underlying law and all the provisions that are not tied to specific funding levels do not expire. All legal protections for victims and survivors continue, including protections in federally-subsidized housing, special tribal jurisdiction, and protections for immigrant victims. Grant conditions that protect survivor confidentiality and safety remain intact.

●     the definition of domestic violence?

A recent article suggesting that the Trump Administration changed the definition of domestic violence is creating some panic in the field. The law did not change; no Administration has that power. The only thing that changed was the definition listed on a website, which does not change the legal definition nor definitions for grant funding.

●     funding for programs and agencies?

VAWA programs and services are funded for 2019 in several already-passed appropriations bills (including Labor, Health, and Human Services) and have been funded in the continuing resolutions funding Department of Justice programs.

 

What are some advocacy strategies we can use at the local level to ensure a modestly enhanced version of VAWA passes?

The NTF relies on you and other advocates to support out work in Washington, DC by answering our call to rally when the time is right. We will be in contact as the process plays out with periodic updates and calls to activate. Be sure to engage with NTF action alerts when they arrive and take action by calling or writing to your Representative and Senators. Visit the NTF’s webpage on VAWA, where you can find helpful resources.

In the meantime, advocacy at the district level is the most effective way to connect with your Members of Congress. Plan on district advocacy when your Members of Congress are home during the 3rd week of March and the 3rd and 4th weeks of April. Meet with them in your home district and tell them it’s important to pass VAWA, that uncertainty about VAWA’s future harms survivors and advocates, and even though fiscal year 2019 funding is in place, keeping VAWA unauthorized is not a good message to send to survivors.

If you’re looking for district advocacy resources, visit raliance.org/tools

If all of your Members of Congress already support VAWA, thank and recognize them -- publicly acknowledge by thanking them at your next organization’s event, giving them an award, thanking them in an op-ed, etc. You can also collect stories about how VAWA has helped and highlight gaps that could be improved.

 

NTF Applauds Congress for Their Support of Victims and Survivors

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (“NTF”) applauds Congress for their support for victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. The recently introduced bipartisan, bicameral funding bill appropriates a record $497.5 million for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for the 2019 fiscal year and releases over $3 billion from the Crime Victims Fund, including almost $170 million for Native victims. Funding for vital programs to protect victims and survivors is secure until September 30th, the end of the federal fiscal year, by which time funding for the entire government must be renewed.

VAWA’s authorization was originally slated to lapse at midnight on September 30, 2018. Congress took the unusual step of extending its authorization three times in the series of short-term bills they passed to fund the government since the end of the previous fiscal year. While VAWA will not be extended again, this does not impact its funding - money has already been appropriated for this fiscal year. As happened when VAWA was expired between 2010 and 2013, we expect Congress to continue to fund VAWA while we work with them to develop and pass a bipartisan VAWA reauthorization that centers victims and includes targeted fixes and modest enhancements to improve survivors’ access to safety, security, and justice.

As with other laws, only the VAWA grant program authorizations expire - the underlying law and all the provisions that are not tied to specific funding levels do not expire. All legal protections for victims and survivors continue, including protections in federally-subsidized housing, special tribal jurisdiction, and protections for immigrant victims. Grant conditions that protect survivor confidentiality and safety remain intact. 

The NTF has been working with Congress for over a year to craft and pass a strong VAWA reauthorization bill with critical enhancements, and we will continue to do this important work on behalf of victims and survivors. We rely on you and other advocates to support our work in Washington, DC by answering our call to rally when the time is right. We will be in contact as the process plays out with periodic updates and calls to activate.

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.

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's Sexual Harassment Statement

As 2018 begins, we are encouraged and inspired by the activism and courageous actions of those in Congress, the Supreme Court, Hollywood, and many others in response to disclosures by victims of sexual violence and misconduct that range from verbal harassment to rape in the workplace.  We stand in solidarity with our sisters in the entertainment industry and activists who wore black on Sunday during the Golden Globe Awards. The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) is comprised of a large and diverse group of national, tribal, state, territorial and local organizations, as well as individuals, committed to securing an end to domestic and sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking.  We strive to accomplish these goals by developing and supporting the passage and implementation of effective public policies locally, tribally, and nationally.

We have seen a new spark of commitment and action from those empowered to effect systemic change that builds on decades of groundwork by activists from all walks of life. Congress introduced legislation requiring harassment prevention training for members of Congress and their staff and is working to overhaul the complaint process for sexual harassment claims in order to increase transparency, accountability, and more effective responses.  Chief Justice Roberts has ordered an evaluation to commence this month reviewing whether “the Court’s standards of conduct and its procedures for investigating and correcting inappropriate behavior are adequate to ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee.”  

NTF lifts up the leadership of Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo campaign in 2006, and acknowledges that the program she began centered the experiences of young women of color who were survivors of sexual violence. It is crucial to understand that, for nearly all women, the experiences of harassment and violence that are the focus of #MeToo begins long before they reach the workplace. We must support empowerment and prevention efforts in the K-12 and campus spaces.  Additionally, we must demand accountability from political leaders, Congress, workplaces, and communities.

NTF also applauds TIME’S UP, which offers a myriad of supportive services to those who have been underrepresented, marginalized, and silenced in the workplace.  The initiative will focus on policy, legislation, and employment agreements to change the current workplace cultures of institutionalized sexism, and provide greater access to legal remedies should one choose that option.  TIME’S UP recognizes the power the entertainment industry has to shape our national narratives and understandings, because for too long that power has been used to silence victims.  Now, those who have been silenced are empowered to use their voice, their numbers, and their platforms to assist all women who have been harassed, violated, and made afraid - from farms to restaurants, private homes to hotels, academic institutions to health care agencies, studio lots to government buildings.

The groundswell of stories from those who have suffered abuse and met silence, trivialization, and marginalization when they attempted to put words to their experiences highlights what has been all too clear for the NTF since its inception: violence against women in all its forms and in all its spaces has been covered up and protected with unchecked power and privilege.  This is why we support all endeavors that communities devise to recognize physical, sexual, economic, and psychological abuse when it is happening, whether it occurs at home, on the street, in the workplace, or a place of worship and to address it with a multitude of options that are as diverse as the survivors who have experienced sexual violence and abuse, including men and LGBT individuals.  

We know harassment, sexual violence and abuse are inexorably intertwined with racism, homophobia, and institutionalized poverty. We know that women of color have endured an undue burden of sexual assault and violence in this country; that LGBTQ people are systematically targeted, and that some boys and men are victimized by harassment, assault, and abuse as well.   Thus, we know we need everyone at this table to participate in order to achieve a significant paradigm shift toward prevention and intervention strategies that honor everyone’s right to live free from violence.  We affirm that we all have the right to fall asleep on airplanes without being sexually assaulted.  We all have the right to do our jobs in the workplace without fearing we will lose our paychecks if we do not give in to sexual demands.  We all have the right to pursue an education without being harassed or assaulted by other students, or by our professors.  We all have the right to walk down the street without being subjected to catcalls.  We all have the right to tell our stories without shame, or fear, or any kind of retaliation.

As we prepare for the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act this spring, we call on the Congress and other leaders to invest in early prevention so our young people can grow up with the expectation and reality of respect, equity, and safety. We will continue to collectively raise awareness of violence against women.  We will collectively strive to prevent violence against all women and girls. We will collectively push back on antiquated and misogynistic notions of women’s value and worth.  We will rise together so #MeToo no longer defines our shared experiences.  We will transform cultural and societal norms to celebrate the gifts women bring without compromising our sexuality, our dignity, or our souls.

Statement of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence in Opposition to the Administration’s October 2017 Immigration Blueprint

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF)* opposes the Trump Administration’s immigration priorities for Congress, as announced on October 8, 2017.  Already, Administration policy changes have left immigrant survivors of sexual and domestic violence more vulnerable to threats from abusers and more fearful that they will be deported at any moment and separated from their children and communities. Studies show that they are now less likely to call the police for help or go to court to protect themselves and their children from abuse and violence. In this climate, the NTF calls on our nation’s policymakers to work together to uphold their commitment to all survivors – including through the protections of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) – and forge a bipartisan, humane national immigration policy. 

The Administration’s list of requests to Congress would roll back hard-won protections for women and children who have experienced violence both in the United States and abroad. Congress, through bipartisan action, has seen fit to offer pathways to immigration status as a means of protecting these survivors from further harm. The Administration now asks Congress to undo decades of progress toward humane polices that recognize the unique vulnerabilities of women and children who have experienced the trauma of violence and require immigration status to access safety.

Some of the Administration’s requests include:

  • Funding a southern border wall, which has been shown to be costly and unhelpful, while likely keeping out women and children fleeing high levels of violence who need and qualify for protection;
  • Expanding the inefficient and inhumane expedited removal system to fast-track deportations of even more individuals seeking protection, including children fleeing sexual violence and even death, without a meaningful court hearing;
  • Increasing barriers to survivors seeking asylum and fleeing for their lives, even though the standards for asylum and refugee processing are already exceedingly high;
  • Penalizing communities that enact community trust policies and adhere to Constitutional principles by coercing increased entanglement between federal immigration enforcement and local law enforcement, thus making it even less likely that immigrant victims and witnesses will reach out to law enforcement and further undermining public safety;
  • Undoing a previous settlement agreement entered into by the government in a federal court case that limited the jailing of immigrant children since it was found to be detrimental to their health and well-being; and
  • Increasing barriers to legal immigration status for large numbers of applicants, which will unfairly hurt immigrant families and harm America’s economy.

The requests incorrectly describe protections for women and children as exploited “loopholes” instead of attempts by Congress to ensure the safety of those who need it most. A recent survey of more than 700 advocates and attorneys revealed that immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are often afraid to come forward and access help.[1] Immigrant victims are expressing heightened fears and concerns about immigration enforcement, with 78% of advocates and attorneys reporting that victims are describing fear of contacting the police; 75% reporting that victims are afraid of going to court; and 43% reporting that immigrant victims are choosing not to move forward with criminal charges or obtaining protective orders.[2] No legislator willingly works against supporting victims of violence or preventing and ending domestic and sexual assault. We urge Congress to work to craft immigration relief that prevents future abuse and exploitation, promotes public trust, and makes communities safer. 

Congress should reject the White House’s October 2017 immigration principles, and work in a bipartisan manner towards the larger legislative reform of our nation’s immigration laws that is desperately needed to provide a just, common sense, and humane solution to the current crisis. As part of these efforts, Congress must protect and defend DACA recipients who were brought to this country as children and who are now living, working, and raising families in the United States. They should not be used as a bargaining chip to impose immigration policies that undermine protections for other groups of immigrants.

Advocates for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence have reported that DACA and other forms of immigration relief are critical to protecting our communities and helping survivors feel secure and stable so that they can rebuild their lives and be economically self-sufficient.[3]  Safeguarding DACA and other immigration relief will protect individuals from deportation and allow survivors and witnesses of crimes like domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking to feel safe to report crimes to police without fear that seeking justice will put them at risk of being deported.

The NTF urges Congress to pass the Dream Act of 2017, granting legal status to young people who arrived in the United States before they turned 18, helping protect them from abuse and exploitation, and allowing them the opportunity to live and work in the United States permanently. Congress should reject the White House’s proposals that would roll back decades of work to establish protections for survivors of violence. And it must continue to work in a bipartisan manner to seek a more just and humane immigration system that protects survivors and strengthens families, communities, and the nation.

For more information, please contact Grace Huang, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence at ghuang@api-gbv.org, Archi Pyati, Tahirih Justice Center, at archip@tahirih.org, or Rosie Hidalgo, National Latin@ Network: Casa de Esperanza, at rhidalgo@casadeesperanza.org.

 

 

* The NTF is comprised of national, state, tribal, territorial and local leadership organizations and advocates working to end domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

[1] 2017 Advocate and Legal Service Survey Regarding Immigrant Survivors”, available at http://www.tahirih.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2017-Advocate-and-Legal-Service-Survey-Key-Findings.pdf

[2] See, 2017 advocate survey, found at: http://www.tahirih.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2017-Advocate-and-Legal-Service-Survey-Key-Findings.pdf.  See also, New Immigration Crackdowns Creating 'Chilling Effect' On Crime Reporting http://www.npr.org/2017/05/25/529513771/new-immigration-crackdowns-creating-chilling-effect-on-crime-reporting

[3] National Latin@ Network Casa de Esperanza, “Testimonies From the Field: Benefits of DACA for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence,” available at https://nationallatinonetwork.org/images/files/Quote_Sheet_for_Hill_Visits_2.pdf

Statement on Proposals Seeking to Undermine Community Trust Policies

As the Steering Committee of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF), comprising national leadership organizations advocating on behalf of sexual and domestic violence victims and women’s rights, we represent hundreds of organizations across the country dedicated to ensuring all survivors of violence receive the protections they deserve. For this reason, we write to express our deep concerns about the potential impact that proposals that seek to undermine community trust policies will have. Proposals that weaken community trust policies will be dangerous for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and trafficking, and in particular, for immigrant victims, and communities at large.

Undermining policies that local jurisdictions have determined are constitutionally sound and appropriate for their respective communities decreases the ability of law enforcement agencies to respond to violent crimes and assist all victims of crime, U.S. Citizens and immigrants alike. As recognized in the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), law enforcement plays a critical role in our coordinated community response to domestic and sexual violence.

Perpetrators use fear of deportation as abuse. Local policies that minimize intertwining of local law enforcement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) help bring the most vulnerable victims out of the shadows by creating trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community, which in turn help protect entire communities.[1]  Abusers and traffickers use the fear of deportation of their victims as a tool to silence and trap them. Not only are the individual victims harmed, but their fear of law enforcement leads many to abstain from reporting violent perpetrators or coming forward and, as a result, dangerous criminals are not identified and go unpunished.

Community trust policies are critical tools for increasing community safety. Laws that seek to intertwine the immigration and law enforcement systems will undermine the Congressional purpose of protections enacted under VAWA and will have the chilling effect of pushing immigrant victims into the shadows and allow criminals to walk on our streets. As VAWA recognizes, immigrant victims of violent crimes often do not contact law enforcement due to fear that they will be deported. According to a study conducted by the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Latin@ Network: Casa de Esperanza, 45% of the foreign-born callers expressed fear of calling and/or seeking help from the police or courts.[2]  Furthermore, 12% of US-Born callers expressed fear of seeking help due to the current wave of anti-immigrant policies. Immigrants are already afraid of contacting the police and these policies to further intertwine immigration and law enforcement systems will only exacerbate this fear.  The result is that perpetrators will be able to continue to harm others, both immigrant and U.S. Citizen victims alike.

Recent Immigration Executive Orders are Undermining Victim Protections in our Communities Since January, victim advocates are describing the immense fear expressed by immigrant victims and their reluctance to reach out for help from police. Advocates at domestic violence programs in jurisdictions with large undocumented populations are reporting a “large drop in the number of women coming in for services,” indicating victims are not pursuing criminal charges against abusers or moving into domestic violence shelters.[3] Advocacy programs are reporting significant increases in calls from immigrant victims, many of whom are seeking information on the advisability of working with law enforcement and prosecution given their fear of deportation in light of the Executive Orders. Other advocates are reporting a drop in the number of victims seeking accompaniment to work with police and seek protection orders. Thousands of victim advocates nationwide are reporting that they are uncertain how to best advise immigrant survivors about what will happen if they call the police or go to court.

Recent reports from law enforcement officials confirm this widespread fear and uncertainty. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck has reported that his city is already seeing evidence of this increased fear: Reports of sexual assault have dropped by 25 percent and domestic violence by 10 percent among the Latino population since the beginning of the year.[4] In Denver, Colorado, City Attorney Kristin Bronson reported that since the issuance of the interior enforcement Executive Order, four domestic-violence victims have declined to pursue charges against their abusers out of fear of  deportation.[5] The Travis County, Texas District Attorney similarly reported that at least one domestic violence case there recently stalled because the victim declined to press charges out of fear of deportation.[6]   When victims are afraid to come forward, abusers and perpetrators will be able to continue to harm victims with impunity and our entire communities are affected.

For these reasons, we urge you to affirm the intent and spirit of VAWA by supporting strong relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities, which is critical for public safety in general, and particularly essential for domestic and sexual violence victims. Thank you very much for your efforts to protect and support immigrant of domestic violence and sexual assault.

For more information, please contact Grace Huang, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence at ghuang@api-gbv.org, or Rosie Hidalgo, National Latin@ Network: Casa de Esperanza, at rhidalgo@casadeesperanza.org.

Sincerely,

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence

 

[1] A study conducted by the University of Illinois- Chicago found that increased involvement of local police and immigration enforcement eroded trust between the police and immigrants, undocumented and documented. 45% of documented immigrants were less likely to report a crime while 70% of undocumented immigrants responded similarly. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/sanctuary-cities-public-safety-kate-steinle-san-francisco.
See also, http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/01/29/512002076/why-sanctuary-cities-are-safer.

[2] http://www.nationallatinonetwork.org/images/files/HotlineReport_2_2015_Final.pdf; http://nomore.org/nomas/ http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/7112130?

[3] Tyler Kingkade, Trump Deportation Vow Is Scaring Domestic Abuse Victims From Coming Forward, Buzzfeed News (Mar. 16, 2017), http://bzfd.it/2nNRX9L.

[4]James Queally, Latinos are reporting fewer sexual assaults amid a climate of fear in immigrant communities, LAPD says, L.A. Times (Mar. 21, 2017), http://lat.ms/2nPwdva.    

[5] Mark Joseph Stern, Bad for Undocumented Immigrants, a Gift to Domestic Abusers, Slate.com (Mar. 8, 2017), http://slate.me/2mZlJvS

[6] Nora Caplan-Bricker, I Wish I’d Never Called the Police, Slate.com (Mar. 19, 2017), http://slate.me/2mYrYgC.