Press Release

Press Release AG Healey Calls on U.S. Senate to Reauthorize Federal Law Protecting Women From Violence

COVID-19 Pandemic is Putting Domestic Violence Victims and Survivors at Further Risk
For immediate release:
5/04/2020
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Calls on U.S. Senate to Reauthorize Federal Law Protecting Women From Violence

Chloe Gotsis

BOSTON Recognizing the increased risks that domestic violence victims and survivors face during the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today joined 24 attorneys general in calling on the U.S. Senate to immediately reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which expired more than a year ago.

“During times of crisis, and especially now as people are staying home, rates of domestic violence go up and survivors are particularly vulnerable,” AG Healey said. “We need to do everything we can to support and protect survivors, victims of crime and people in abusive relationships during this pandemic, so we’re calling on the Senate to immediately reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.”

The Violence Against Women Act, originally passed in 1994, created an Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice, and provides billions of dollars for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, as well as financial support to women in need. The Act was most recently reauthorized in 2013, and each time Congress reauthorized the Act, it expanded the protections under the law with bipartisan support.

In April of 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill with bipartisan support reauthorizing the act, but after more than a year, the Senate has yet to take up consideration of the bill, nor has it taken up a companion bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Today’s letter notes that the COVID-19 pandemic makes reauthorizing the act even more urgent, as measures to contain the virus can exacerbate isolation, uncertainty, and economic instability, directly impacting victims of domestic violence.

The House bill expands the protections of the Violence Against Women Act by:

  • Strengthening protections for Native women by expanding jurisdiction of tribal courts over non-Native men who abuse Native women;
  • Codifying important protections for LGBTQ individuals; and,
  • Closing the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows certain abusive dating partners to continue possessing firearms under federal law.

“Reauthorization of (the Violence Against Women Act) will not end the scourge of gender-based violence, but it is an important step toward more fully addressing the tragic epidemic,” the letter states. “The importance of urgent action is underscored by the particular challenges faced by victims and survivors during the COVID-19 outbreak. We urge you to move quickly to adopt the House-passed bill or the Senate companion sponsored by Senator Feinstein. Women in our states are counting on it.”

AG Healey’s Office recommends a number of resources for victims of domestic violence during the pandemic including:
 

  • SafeLink: Statewide toll-free domestic violence and sexual assault hotline at 1-877-785-2020.
  • Massachusetts Office for Victims Assistance (MOVA) at (844) 878-MOVA (6682) or visit www.mass.gov/askMOVA for free resources for victims, survivors, and providers.
  • Jane Doe at https://janedoe.org/find_help/.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit www.thehotline.org/help/.

Survivors of domestic violence can still seek emergency restraining and harassment orders during the COVID-19 public health crisis. Survivors can also still get access to forensic sexual assault kits at no cost during the public health crisis and can still get assistance through the Massachusetts Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. Victims of violent crimes in Massachusetts can seek and apply for funding from AG Healey’s Victim Compensation program.

Joining AG Healey in sending today’s letter are the attorneys general of Washington, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.

Visit the AG’s COVID-19 resource page for information about how the AG’s Office can provide support during this crisis.

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Media Contact for AG Healey Calls on U.S. Senate to Reauthorize Federal Law Protecting Women From Violence

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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