SCHUMER: AMID COVID, THERE IS A VERY TROUBLING 33% SURGE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES IN NY REQUIRING ACTION; SENATOR DEMANDS SENATE IMMEDIATELY REAUTHORIZE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT THAT ALREADY PASSED HOUSE; LAW FUNDS UPSTATE NY SHELTERS, COUNSELING & CRITICAL EFFORTS THAT SAVE LIVES & GIVES SURVIVORS A SECOND CHANCE
Millions Of Federal Dollars That Would Help New York Counties Combat Domestic Violence Are Locked In Limbo Because Senate Refuses To Bring Violence Against Women (VAWA) Act To Floor For Passage; It Passed The House With Bipartisan Support In April 2019
Schumer Says State Agencies & Counties Across Upstate NY Need These Funds For Local Programs That Support Survivors With Housing, Transportation & Even Phones To Get Them Out Of Danger; Right Now, Everyone Is Worried
Schumer: We Simply Cannot Allow A Pandemic To Fuel An Epidemic Of Domestic Violence
Citing a recent New York State report that details a very troubling 33% rise in domestic violence cases across New York amid COVID, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer demanded the United States Senate take up the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which passed the House with bipartisan support all the way back in April of 2019. Schumer demanded Leader McConnell take VAWA ‘off the shelf’ and rightfully pass it in the Senate. Specifically, the Senator revealed, in Upstate New York, domestic violence shelter occupancy rates rose to 78% in April 2020, up from 59% in April 2019, a 19% increase.
Schumer said that New York is not alone in worrisome statistics, either. Other states, like Texas and Illinois, according to the New York Times, have seen similar domestic violence surges and capital resources for many programs could dry up fast.
“The data from New York’s report mirrors similar statistics across other parts of the country that are also seeing a rise in domestic violence amid the coronavirus pandemic. It’s up to all of us to heed the warning in these numbers and not allow a pandemic to fuel an epidemic of domestic violence so many have devoted their lives to preventing,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Since I first helped write the Violence Against Women’s Act in 1994, countless individuals have been saved. Whether the funds provided local shelters, counseling or other critical efforts, the law has given so many a second chance and we cannot rest until the Senate acts, the law is fully reauthorized and the help New York and other states need on the way.”
According to New York’s domestic violence task force, “…in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, data reported by law enforcement and domestic violence service providers pointed to an increase in domestic violence, with the New York State Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline recording a 33 percent increase in calls for April 2020 compared to April 2019, and shelter occupancy rates upstate rising to 78 percent in April 2020, versus 59 percent in April 2019.
Schumer reiterated that that the coronavirus pandemic cannot be allowed to fuel an epidemic of domestic violence that so many have joined together to prevent as he made the case for new action. He said that passing the full VAWA package will unlock the full federal funding New York needs to achieve its immediate needs to help stop the violence. Schumer detailed New York’s immediate needs given the 33% spike in reported violence:
1) Local programming for survivors’ safety, including the use of new technology and mobile platforms
2) Housing stability and navigation services
According to the report, “funding should be flexible to meet a range of needs, including housing costs, safety measures and allocations for essential needs that might present barriers to safety and housing stability, such as debt or car repair expenses. Support should have more flexible parameters, should meet survivors’ needs as quickly as possible, and should be available until survivors feel safe. Program outcomes should be based on survivors’ safety and housing stability over the longterm. Further, the state should continue its commitment to partnering with the philanthropic and advocacy community, collaborating to leverage support, fill in the gaps where existing funds fall short and foster further innovation.”
“Right now, because of the uncertainty around the Violence Against Women’s Act’s future reauthorization we have states preparing to turn over the couch cushions for this life-saving funding, and that cannot sustain,” Schumer added. “Philanthropy is certainly one way to “fill in the gaps” but existing federal funding cannot be allowed to simply ‘fall short.” That’s why we need the Senate to act here, because government has a job to do and lives to save.”
Schumer cited funding that has gone to all parts of the state since 2014 to show how New York has benefited from VAWA.
The Southern Tier has received $1,485,000 in federal funding through the Violence Against Women Act since 2014. Specifically, $1,485,000 was awarded to enhance the safety of rural victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
The Capital Region has received over $8.8 million in federal funding through the Violence Against Women Act. Specifically, $595,442 was awarded to combat campus sexual assault; $750,000 was awarded to combat domestic violence among the disabled; $1,467,659 was awarded to provide housing for victims of domestic violence; $950,000 was awarded to improve criminal justice response (ICJR); $1,757,021 was awarded to provide legal assistance to victims (LAV); and $683,322 was awarded to assist tribal governments’ response to domestic violence.
Western New York has received over $3.8 million in federal funding through the Violence Against Women Act. Specifically, $900,000 was awarded to aid law enforcement in combatting domestic violence; $899,639 was awarded to combat campus sexual assault; $500,000 was awarded to combat domestic violence among the disabled; $900,000 was awarded to improve criminal justice response (ICJR); and $599,792 was awarded to provide legal assistance to victims (LAV).
Rochester and the Finger Lakes Region have received over $8.8 million in federal funding through the Violence Against Women Act. Specifically, $650,000 was awarded to aid law enforcement in combatting domestic violence; $299,708 was awarded to combat campus sexual assault; $425,000 was awarded to combat domestic violence among the disabled; $794,667 was awarded to provide housing for victims of domestic violence; $750,000 was awarded to improve criminal justice response (ICJR); $3,266,665 was awarded to provide legal assistance to victims (LAV); $1,222,000 was awarded to provide assistance to underserved populations; $425,000 was awarded to assist those in rural communities; and $1,000,00 was awarded to support families who have been affected by domestic violence.
Central New York, Northern New York and the Mohawk Valley have received $10,622,326.00 in federal funding through the Violence Against Women Act. Specifically, $897,651.00 was awarded to combat campus sexual assault; $425,000 was awarded to combat domestic violence among the disabled; $2,189,714.00 was awarded to provide housing for victims of domestic violence; $ 397,037 was awarded to improve criminal justice response (ICJR); and $1,200,000 was awarded to provide legal assistance to victims (LAV) ; $2,198,310 was awarded to consolidated youth program; $1,164,614 was awarded to provide improve the response of the civil and criminal justice system to families with a history of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, or in cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse; $1,450,000 was awarded to enhance the safety of rural victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, and supports projects uniquely designed to address and prevent these crimes in rural areas; $300,000 was awarded for outreach and services to underserved populations to develop and implement outreach strategies targeted at adult or youth victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking in underserved populations and to provide victim services to those victims.
The Hudson Valley has received over $7.4 million in federal funding through the Violence Against Women Act. Specifically, $595,379 was awarded to aid law enforcement in combatting domestic violence; $297,332 was awarded to combat campus sexual assault; $297,332 was awarded to combat domestic violence among the disabled; $ 362,787 was awarded to provide housing for victims of domestic violence; $74, 817 was awarded to create a mentor program, $899,692 was awarded to improve criminal justice response (ICJR); $400,000 was awarded to address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation; $192,258 was awarded to improve the response of the civil and criminal justice system to families with a history of domestic abuse; and $3,048,324 was awarded to provide legal assistance to victims (LAV).
Several organizations across New York voiced their support for Senator Schumer’s efforts.
“Renewal of the Violence Against Women Act is needed now more than ever. The real work of getting this legislation passed must be a priority,” said Raini Baudendistel, Executive Director of Crime Victims Assistance Center, Inc. in Binghamton. “Violence in the home is very real, reoccurring and can easily turn lethal. It happens in every community and has long-lasting effects on any children in the home. Being under quarantine has escalated the domestic violence cases while limiting a victim’s ability to safely and confidentially reach out for services. Victim services are necessary and life changing. Funding is necessary to maintain the safety of our families, friends, and neighbors. We support Senator Schumer in this endeavor and appreciate his continued efforts as an advocate of our work. Now is the time!”
“The VAWA is a cornerstone of our response to domestic and sexual service survivors and is more important and more urgent than ever. This past May our agency saw a 28% increase in calls to our 24 hour hotline, in comparison to May 2019. The need is real, and present in the Southern Tier and in Tompkins County. We support Senator Schumer’s efforts to move this critical reauthorization forward,” said Heather Campbell, Executive Director of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.
“Domestic violence has been a growing public health crisis throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an insidious issue that has been in our communities long before the virus, and will remain a serious threat to victims and our community without increased action. Violence against women has a broad grip, having a devastating impact on the lives of innocent children and families, and creating a vicious cycle we cannot ignore,” said Equinox CEO Virginia Golden. “Equinox has been on the front lines helping victims of domestic violence for 30 years, and we applaud Senator Schumer for advocating to renew the Violence Against Women Act. It is our hope that this Act will bring to the forefront the dire need for funding for prevention and advocacy programs, and offer hope to victims that a violence-free life is possible.”
“Unity House urges support for the renewal of VAWA. Need has grown more intense over these past three months of COVID-19. At Unity House we have seen a significant increase in the request for services, hotline calls, and in making safety plans with victims while they wait out COVID restrictions, while also noting increased risk, 30%, of lethality. We know that victims – women and men – are 500 times safer when they can access a shelter, but during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders there is a greater reluctance to leave home, especially with children, to go to an unknown location. Hence more danger from perpetrators,” said CEO of Unity House of Troy, Christopher Burke. “There will be a significant increase in the need for direct services as victims become able to reach out/move out in the coming months. Hence VAWA Funds are crucial.”
“The WNY Women's Foundation has been working nonstop through this public health crisis to elevate the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women - especially our black and brown sisters,” said Sheri Scavone, Executive Director of the Western New York Women’s Foundation. “The risk - and unfortunate reality of a rise in the pervasive societal problem of intimate partner/domestic violence in the wake of this emergency calls for bipartisan solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in the number of reported domestic violence cases - leaving many survivors trapped at home with their abusers while shelters that typically house victims may not be open, impeding women's ability to escape. This is not a political issue - it is a human one, impacting the safety of women and their families every day.”
“The quarantine and subsequent economic instability has only intensified isolation and safety concerns for those experiencing domestic violence. Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act is the least we can do to help protect countless women who often have no recourse or place to go. Women across the Niagara region and beyond deserve the protection of the federal government, and the reauthorization of VAWA helps make that a reality,” said Larissa Bachman, Director of Domestic Violence Services at Pinnacle Community Services in Niagara Falls.
Meaghan de Chateauvieux, President & CEO of Willow Domestic Violence Center in Rochester, NY said, “When a survivor steps forward in our community seeking safety from abuse, VAWA is what makes it possible for our local agencies to work together in a coordinated and comprehensive way to keep families safe. Willow serves over 7,000 survivors each year and relies on our VAWA-funded community partnerships. We appreciate Senator Schumer’s push because VAWA is the cornerstone of our local coordinated response to domestic violence and has changed the landscape for victims who once suffered in silence.”
“In the midst of COVID-19, the need for passage of the reauthorization of VAWA is all the more critical. Victims have been trapped in their homes with people who hurt them, and they deserve the full range of services authorized in VAWA. The reality of COVID-19 coupled with the growing awareness of the impact of racism and White supremacy on Black and Brown victims necessitates immediate action. Thank you to Senator Schumer for championing this important effort,” said Randi Bregman, Executive Director of Vera House.
“More than seven months ago, the House of Representatives passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) of 2019 (H.R. 1585) with strong bipartisan support. This bill maintains the safety, resources, and protections critical to all survivors, particularly women of color and other marginalized communities, and provided critical support for survivors and service providers. We are proud to have Senator Schumer in our corner!! He, once again, is taking a stand on this issue. We hope that the Senate will not hold this legislation as a hostage especially now that the need of these services has increased, according with The New York State Council on Women and Girl’s COVID-19 Domestic Violence Task Force,” said Fanny Villarreal, Executive Director of YWCA of Syracuse.
“As an agency dedicated to serving women in our community, we at YWCA Mohawk Valley are happy to have the support of Senator Schumer in reauthorizing VAWA and strengthening our state’s support of survivors of gender-based violence. We have been adamant about reauthorizing VAWA since it expired in December of 2018,” said Dianne Stancato, Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Mohawk Valley. “Our community and our clients rely on essential legislation like VAWA because it allows crisis agencies like ours to sustain its life-saving services, especially during unprecedented and stressful times such as these. YWCA MV stands behind the Senate’s efforts to reauthorize VAWA and calls on Senate leaders to act immediately.”
“In the midst of COVID-19, the need for passage of the reauthorization of VAWA is all the more critical. Victims have been trapped in their homes with people who hurt them, and they deserve the full range of services authorized in VAWA. The reality of COVID-19 coupled with the growing awareness of the impact of racism and White supremacy on Black and Brown victims necessitates immediate action. Thank you to Senator Schumer for championing this important effort,” said Randi Bregman Executive Director of Vera House.
“Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV) is a lifeline for survivors of domestic violence throughout the Hudson Valley, and past VAWA funding secured with the help of Senator Schumer has been crucial to LSHV’s ability to serve victims, survivors, and their families. Civil legal services for domestic violence survivors have become even more critical in the past several months because of COVID-19. Stay-at-home orders during the pandemic have exacerbated the instability and violence that victims face in their homes, and have jeopardized their ability to reach out for help and communicate with service providers. In 2019, LSHV handled almost 3,000 cases that involved domestic violence, and it is only with the support of our funders and partners like Senator Schumer that we can continue to serve those who come to us for help. We thank the Senator for prioritizing the reauthorization of the VAWA,” said Barbara Finkelstein, CEO of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.
“Fearless! has worked tirelessly to assist survivors of domestic violence, teen dating violence, and human trafficking in Orange & Sullivan County for over 34 years by providing free and confidential services to victims and their families. In 2019 Fearless! provided 24,845 advocacy services, answered 7,968 hotline calls, and supported 5,110 individualized safety plans. Stay-at-home orders caused by the coronavirus pandemic reinforced how effective isolation is as a tool used by abusers to exert power and control over their partners while preventing those victims from seeking critical help and support services,” said Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier, Executive Director of Fearless! Hudson Valley, Inc. “Now more than ever we need strong policy and leadership to protect victims and their families. The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is an important step in the right direction and we support Senator Schumer’s call to have the Senate consider this vital legislation as soon as possible.”
“Over the years Senator Schumer has been a stalwart supporter of My Sisters’ Place, including through his role securing funding for VAWA programs that have proven to be a critical lifeline for the more than 7,500 victims that we reach annually across the Lower Hudson Valley. In recent years, VAWA funds have enabled us to enhance the availability of legal counsel for vulnerable families experiencing abuse, address the critical need for accessible supportive services for Deaf survivors, and sustain our capacity to provide specialized assistance to victims of all forms of Human Trafficking,” said Karen Cheeks-Lomax, Chief Executive Officer of My Sisters’ Place. “With the economic and other uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, those experiencing domestic violence are suddenly more vulnerable than ever. While many are staying home to stop the spread of the virus, MSP is acutely aware that for our clients, home is not always a place of safety. We already know that here in New York and around the nation, lockdowns to control the spread of COVID-19 have coincided with a dramatic increase in severity in cases of family violence. We must, therefore, take every step that we can to reauthorize and strengthen the current VAWA programs. We are happy to support Senator Schumer’s push to immediately bring this vital legislation to the Senate floor.”
"For far too many the coronavirus crisis has meant isolation with abusive partners and fewer possibilities to connect with others that can potentially assist like our team here at the Grace Smith House in Poughkeepsie. That is why the Senate needs to take every step possible to protect survivors by urgently reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act," said Dr. Branka Bryan, Grace Smith House. "The VAWA programs and funding opportunities play a critical role in providing safe shelter and extensive services to survivors of domestic violence and their children here in Dutchess County and beyond. We hope that others join in Senator Schumer's prioritization of this long-overdue legislation so that more resources can go to those who need it most."
The original 1994 VAWA bill, which was authored by Schumer when he was a member of the House, has been reauthorized three times—in 2000, 2005 and 2013—with unanimous Senate approval the first two times. Since its enactment, the bill has reduced domestic violence by more than 50 percent. Additionally, the legislation, over the course of its history, has provided more than $7 billion in federal funding towards reducing these types of violence.
Beyond reauthorizing all of the current grant programs under the original VAWA and those established by previous reauthorizations, the House-passed VAWA reauthorization also includes a number of new provisions to aid and support victims of domestic and sexual violence. Some of the most essential include:
- Establishing a survey among District and State Attorney Offices that receive funding from VAWA grant programs to track the rates of rape cases.
- Increasing funding for the Services, Training Officers and Prosecutors (STOP) grant program, which promotes a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to enhancing advocacy and improving the criminal justice system’s response to violent crimes against women. The program encourages the development and improvement of effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to address violent crimes against women and the development and improvement of advocacy and services in cases involving violent crimes against women.
- Enhancing the Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus Program by supporting educational institutions seeking to develop and distribute educational materials to students related to prevention.
- Boosting housing protections for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Additionally, a provision in the reauthorization bill ensures that in the event of separation from a spouse, survivors retain access to housing. The bill also increases opportunities under transitional housing grant programs for organizations that operate in underserved and low-income communities.
- Promoting the economic security and stability of victims of domestic and sexual violence. One of the ways the VAWA reauthorization bill would do this would be by authorizing funding for a Government Accountability Office study on the economic implications of domestic violence and the best possible solution to these implications for victims.