Supporting victims of domestic violence is deeply personal to me. When I was a child, I remember the fear, the seeking help and no one responding because you didn’t acknowledge the problem or accept the reality of what happened behind closed doors. Much has changed since those days. We have broken down stigmas and more survivors are finding the courage to speak honestly, escape abusive situations and seek the support they need. Protecting and expanding critical domestic violence response and prevention programs has been a priority for me since coming to Congress.
In one 24-hour period in Michigan, domestic violence programs answered 408 hotline calls of people in immediate danger, and served 2,359 victims with emergency shelter, transitional housing, counseling, and legal advice. Again, all that happened in one day.
Victims and survivors need housing, childcare, legal assistance and counseling, food and financial assistance, and most importantly space and time to rest and recover. Fully funding these programs that assist victims of domestic violence is crucial for communities across Michigan.
For more than 25 years, the Violence Against Women Act is our nation’s strongest resource to respond to the crisis of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
In early 2019, the House of Representatives, we passed critical updates to the Violence Against Women Act, a major step to ensure victims receive the resources they need. The long-term updates reaffirm protections for all women, men, and children and include vital improvements to address gaps in current law that have been identified by victims, survivors, and advocates to keep our communities safe.
Included in these updates include two provisions I wrote:
• The bipartisan Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act closes loopholes that have made it possible for perpetrators of dating violence and those convicted of misdemeanor stalking to legally access guns.
• The expanded on the health titles in the bill to strengthen the healthcare system’s identification, assessment and response to domestic violence, sexual assault and dating violence survivors with an expanded focus on accessing behavioral health and safety resources across the lifespan.
Times are changing slowly. Me Too has caused many more women to speak up and seek help. Our domestic violence programs must respond too. There is no reason a survivor should face hurdles when trying to connect with the services they need to recover. I’ll never stop listening and speaking up to ensure we are best protecting women and serving survivors.