Domestic and Sexual Violence Service Providers Urge Congress to Provide Robust Funding to Combat Intimate Partner Violence During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Jul 9, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (July 9, 2020)—Today, the Committee on Oversight and Reform held a briefing with domestic and sexual violence service providers and advocates on their work responding to the intimate partner violence crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.  The Committee was briefed on the need for robust funding, flexibility, and long-term investment in combatting intimate partner violence.

Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney said this during today’s briefing:

“This briefing is an opportunity for Members to hear from experts who are working at the intersection of multiple crises:  domestic and sexual violence, and the coronavirus pandemic.  Even before the pandemic, interpersonal violence was a public health crisis in the United States.  The coronavirus pandemic has further enabled abusers to use tools of isolation and control against their victims—even in states that have reopened.  Service providers like the organizations briefing us today have used their limited resources to provide comprehensive care and support for survivors for a long time.  But the coronavirus pandemic has strained their resources even further.  We must support their vital work with robust funding, and, for the duration of the coronavirus crisis and the recovery, we must give these organizations the flexibility necessary to fully support survivors of domestic and sexual violence.”

At the briefing, service providers spoke about the need for federal funding and flexibility that allows providers to serve all survivors, particularly those in underserved and marginalized communities that often have difficulty accessing support.

  • Domestic and sexual violence are public health crises that have been impacting survivors and communities for decades.  Experts emphasized that intimate partner violence is a long-standing public health issue that will continue after the coronavirus pandemic has abated.
    • Dr. Lisa O’Connor, Chief Program Officer of the victim assistance organization Safe Horizon stated, “I want to remind Committee members that the struggles that victims of violence and abuse face in trying to find paths to safety have been apparent long before the pandemic hit us.
    • Katie Ray Jones, Chief Executive Officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline told Committee Members, “We have always known domestic violence to be a public health crisis. Even prior to the pandemic, survivors did not have adequate access to the economic support needed to leave an abusive partner, and our numbers, year after year, reflect this. ‘Back to normal’ is not good enough for survivors.”

  • The coronavirus pandemic itself—not state lock-downs and other social distancing measures—has exacerbated the intimate partner violence crisis.  Experts agreed that the pandemic has aggravated factors that lead to abuse, such as isolation and control, and anxiety.
    • Barbara Kappos, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Women’s Center, warned that as a result of the pandemic, “Survivors of domestic and sexual violence are facing uncertainty, instability, isolation, increased anxiety and depression and [are] fearful of the unknown.”
    • Ms. Jones told Committee Members, “The pandemic itself is making it worse for survivors. Abusive partners are using COVID-19 as a means to further isolate, intimidate, further create fear, even in situations where people aren’t locked down in their home with them.”    She also explained, “Even before some states had shelter in place orders, survivors were already reaching out indicating that their abusive partner was leveraging COVID as a means to intimidate, isolate, create fear.”  She continued, “Whether we are in a shelter in place or the economy is reopening, abusive partners will leverage still putting individuals further in harm by preventing them from going to work, threatening the kids if they go to school.  We heard many stories in places where the economy was still open that the abusive partner was telling the victim and the children that if they got sick they would kick them out of the home and refuse medical treatment to those family members.”
    • Monika Johnson-Hostler, Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault and President of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, noted that “even though many stay-at-home orders are still in place, many individuals cannot stay home while others are not following restrictions. Sometimes, the perpetrators are landlords or employers who threaten eviction or termination, leveraging desperation to sexually extort vulnerable people.”

  • Congress needs to dedicate significant resources to addressing these crises, not just during the coronavirus pandemic, but in the long term.  Experts urged Members to form a “real partnership” with advocates and service providers to provide long-term, well-resourced, and stable support for survivors.
    • Dr. O’Connor told the Committee, “We urge Members of this Committee to consider the long-term needs that our clients and our communities will continue to face long after COVID-19 drops from the headlines.”   She also urged Members, “We are asking for your real partnership in moving forward with funding and flexibility to support programs for survivors.”
    • Ms. Jones explained, “As those on the frontlines of a longtime, ongoing public health crisis we know that what is needed to keep survivors safe is a response that is as urgent and as well-resourced as the current response to the coronavirus pandemic. A significant, meaningful, and well-resourced response to the public health crisis of domestic violence is possible – and survivors of domestic violence must be a priority for us all.”


116th Congress