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Why Capitol Hill Day Attendance Matters in 2021: COVID-19 Pandemic

For more than a year, we’ve been inside: tweeting, calling and texting our legislators in defense and support of victims and survivors of domestic violence. 

Now, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s annual Capitol Hill Day, on September 22, 2021, invites and encourages attendees to make their voices heard directly to Capitol Hill staff and members of Congress.

Survivors need your grassroots participation now.  There are many reasons to attend Capitol Hill Day, and one of the most pressing is the impact the pandemic has had on domestic violence victims and survivors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immeasurable impact on domestic violence survivors, victims, and the advocates who serve them.

About one in three women report having experienced domestic violence during the pandemic. The numbers are even worse in communities of color and other specific populations (e.g. LGBTQ, immigrant, American Indian/Alaska Native).

One in two people marginalized by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship status, or cognitive physical ability reported domestic abuse during and exacerbated by the pandemic.

Many victims have been locked down and locked in with violent abusers. More time with abusers has meant more frequent and severe violence. It has also stripped survivors of social connections which often function as pillars of hope and support.

One victim said in an anonymous online forum, “Quarantine sucks, no escape from each other when we are upset. He gaslights me all the time… I don’t know where to go from here.”

Loss of income and lay-offs, due to the pandemic, have also heightened financial stress and domestic abuse. “He has been out of work and his behavior has escalated,” said another anonymous victim.

Stay at home orders have made resources for survival and safety harder to access. One professional who worked with domestic violence victims during the pandemic said, “There wasn’t much the agency could do other than tell victims that someone would call them back.”

And while some courts switched to remote hearings, many did not. Protections like court orders have still gone unapproved or have expired. Victims have also faced a lack of privacy and access to unmonitored phone and internet usage which make all of these resources even harder to take advantage of.

The shut-down of doctors’ offices and emergency room facilities for non-coronavirus patients resulted in a decrease in domestic violence reports by medical professionals, as many could not detect the physical or emotional signs of domestic violence virtually.

The increase of incidents, as well as the shutdown of child-care institutions and schools, have exposed children to higher rates of domestic violence during the pandemic.One female victim posted in the anonymous forum, “Being stuck with him is so hard. He hasn’t hurt our child before but I am afraid it might happen soon. I’ve been trying to keep my son out of harm’s way.”

For some victims, the COVID-19 pandemic has halted plans to leave their domestic abusers. For others, it has made clear the danger in staying. In either case, victims must have ample resources available when they leave their abusers.

The federal government plays a key role in funding domestic violence shelters and other victim service providers through the Victims of Crime Act, or VOCA, and Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, or FVPSA.

Every year, the funding for VOCA and FVPSA grants is slashed. With these cuts comes less access to the critical, life-saving resources that victims of domestic violence need.

The pandemic has shed a light on the urgency and necessity of these underfunded resources.

This Capitol Hill Day, demand fewer cuts to VOCA and FVPSA grants. Demand from your lawmakers the prioritization of these critical resources and prioritization of victims of domestic violence.

Supportive VOCA and FVPSA grants are a critical step towards helping victims of domestic violence, but they're not the only change we’re fighting for.

Tune in to the next NCADV Capitol Hill Day blog post to learn why firearms and VAWA are critical to the domestic violence discussion. And if you want to make a direct change for victims of domestic violence, you can sign up now to participate in Capitol Hill Day this September.

Sign Up for Capitol Hill Day

Posted by Lynn Brewer-Muse at 6:00 AM
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