Press Releases

Rep. Roybal-Allard, Sen. Murray Reintroduce SAFE Act to Empower Domestic Violence Survivors by Breaking Down Economic and Educational Barriers

Top House, Senate Democrat reintroduce bill to ensure women experiencing domestic violence can get help without fearing for their jobs, economic security; SAFE Act invests in national awareness campaign to encourage culture of prevention and support; NEW—SAFE Act would seek to examine implications, find solutions to address student loan burden for domestic violence survivors

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Washington, November 1, 2017 | Ben Soskin ((202) 225-1766) | comments
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), a member of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, have reintroduced the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act, legislation to build on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by further breaking down barriers that domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking create for survivors and their families.

The SAFE Act would ensure survivors who need services like medical attention and legal assistance can take safe leave from work, allow survivors who have to leave their jobs to receive unemployment insurance, protect survivors from being fired because of harassment by an abuser or because they requested protections at work to stay safe, and invest in a national awareness campaign to encourage a culture of prevention and support.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are utterly traumatizing experiences, and those experiences are made all the more devastating by the economic impact they can have on survivors,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard.  “For a survivor, the possibility of losing their job, housing, and financial security can leave them unable to protect their physical safety. As members of Congress, we are obliged to ensure that survivors have the job protections, financial skills, and employment leave they need to safeguard their economic, professional, and physical security and independence.”

“No one experiencing domestic violence should ever have to choose between their safety and their paycheck—but that’s exactly the choice facing millions of survivors each and every day,” said Sen. Murray.  “That’s why I’m proud to be fighting for the SAFE Act, which would help make sure that survivors can seek protection from an abuser while continuing to support themselves and their families.”

Organizations supporting the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act: National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Futures Without Violence, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, and National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. 

“We applaud Senator Murray and Congresswoman Roybal-Allard on the reintroduction of the SAFE Act,” said Lisalyn R. Jacobs on behalf of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.  “At this crucial moment, SAFE asks the right questions about how to better support campus survivors, and provides the right answers about how to better protect survivors in the workplace.”

“Severe physical violence costs survivors of domestic violence nearly 8 million days of paid work – or the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs – each year,”
said Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  “Currently, a survivor can use leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a sick or injured spouse, but cannot use it to seek protection from an abusive partner. We need Congress to pass the SAFE Act so that survivors no longer have to make the tragic choice of risking their safety to protect their livelihood.”

“Personal safety and economic security are inextricably linked for victims of domestic violence.  Whether they can provide financially for themselves and their children is a significant reason that victims stay in, or return to, an abusive relationship,”
said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of National Network to End Domestic Violence.  “When survivors have access to stable resources, unemployment insurance, safe and sick days, and workplace protections, they are much more likely to stay safe and achieve long term stability.”

FACT SHEET: Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act

Violence against women is a serious public health problem that can have devastating impacts on women’s physical and emotional health, financial security, and ability to work.  In the U.S., about one in three women have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime, and one in five women have experienced rape or attempted rape.[1]  One in four women have suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner.[2]  As a result of this violence, survivors of severe intimate partner violence lose nearly 8 million days of paid work – the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs – and almost 5.6 million days of household productivity each year.[3]  Annual costs are estimated at over 8.3 billion dollars.[4]  Survivors of intimate partner violence require time to care for their health or to find safety solutions, such as obtaining a restraining order or finding housing, to prevent sexual assault or domestic violence.

Currently, a woman can use leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for a sick or injured spouse, but she cannot use FMLA leave to seek protection from an abuser.  The Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act allows survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking to take time off without penalty in order to make court appearances, seek legal assistance and get help with safety planning for herself or a loved one.  For too many women, access to these essential services can mean the difference between life and death. 
 
Some victims of domestic or sexual violence must leave their jobs and relocate to protect themselves and their families.  Currently, a woman can receive unemployment benefits if she leaves her job because her husband needed to relocate.  In many states, however, that same woman would not be able to access those benefits if she were fleeing from her partner’s abuse instead.  This legislation ensures that support is available in every state, so that no woman has to make the tragic choice of risking her safety to protect her livelihood. 
 
The SAFE Act supports survivors of domestic violence by giving them the tools and opportunities to securely make the choice to seek help or leave an abusive situation.  The SAFE Act would:

• Expand the National Resource Center Grant program under VAWA to include survivor services organizations.
• Allow a survivor to take up to 30 days off work to receive medical attention, seek legal assistance, attend court proceedings and get help with safety planning.
• Protect employees from being fired because they were harassed by their abuser, obtained protective orders, participated in the criminal or civil justice process, or sought modifications at work to increase workplace safety in response to domestic or sexual violence.
• Require employers to make reasonable safety precautions or job-related modifications if requested unless doing so would impose an undue burden.  
• Ensure that survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking who have been separated from their employment as a result of such violence, are eligible for unemployment insurance. 
• Create a national awareness campaign to create a culture of prevention and support for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
• Call for a report from the Government Accountability Office to examine implications and find solutions to address student loan burden for domestic violence survivors. 

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Footnotes:

[1] The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010-2012 State Report, CDC. 
[2] The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010-2012 State Report, CDC.
[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Costs of intimate partner violence against women in the United States. Atlanta (GA): CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2003.
[4] Max, W., Rice, D. P., Finkelstein, E., Bardwell, R. A., & Leadbetter, S. (2004). The economic toll of intimate partner violence against women in the united states. Violence and Victims, 19(3), 259-72.
 
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