The COVID-19 crisis has led to an increase in domestic violence and compounded trauma for survivors of sexual assault. Both COVID-19 itself and the crisis caused by the pandemic disproportionately impact survivors in communities of color. While both the need for and the expense of providing sexual assault and domestic violence services are increasing, many programs have seen a decrease in donations due to the economic downturn and other COVID-19 related factors. Despite the desperate need for victim services, none of the previous COVID-19 packages signed into law have included funding for sexual violence services, for culturally specific organizations, or for tribes.
Congress cannot ignore the needs of survivors again. In the next COVID-19 package, Congress must:
- Provide dedicated funding for culturally-specific organizations that provide domestic violence and sexual assault services;
- Address the needs of survivors by funding sexual assault services;
- Prevent drastic cuts to victim services funding that would compromise programs’ ability to meet the increased need caused by COVID-19 by increasing deposits into the Crime Victims Fund and by temporarily waiving match requirements for Victims of Crime Act victim assistance grants.
- Provide funding for tribal governments to provide domestic violence and sexual assault services;
- Provide more funding for domestic and sexual violence programs through a VAWA formula grant directly to victim service programs;
- Ensure that access to safety for immigrant survivors is not compromised by immigration enforcement;
- Allow states to make survivors eligible for unemployment insurance if they leave their jobs due to domestic or sexual violence.
It is time for Congress to stop ignoring the impact of COVID-19 on victims and survivors of sexual and domestic violence. None of the previous COVID-19 enacted supplemental appropriations packages has included funding for services for sexual violence, for culturally-specific organizations serving survivors in Communities of Color, or for tribal governments to provide victim services. This is at a time when, due to COVID-19, domestic violence is increasing and survivors of sexual assault are being retraumatized and have significantly more complex needs.