August 01, 2022

Van Hollen Meets with Organizations Supporting Survivors of Domestic Violence, Highlights New Federal Actions, Funds to Support Them

Friday, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) hosted a roundtable discussion with community leaders and organizations that support survivors of domestic violence to discuss new funding awards and provisions passed by Congress to help survivors of intimate partner and gender-based violence. The Senator highlighted efforts to successfully reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which included an expansion of vital protections for survivors. He also discussed direct federal investments he secured for Maryland organizations that provide resources and support to survivors, as well as gun violence prevention measures he worked to pass – such as the closure of the “boyfriend loophole” to keep guns out of the hands of convicted domestic violence offenders – and the need to protect reproductive rights in Maryland following the Supreme Court’s harmful decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The COVID-19 pandemic and all of the challenges resulting from it caused an uptick in domestic violence cases. Last year, at least 58 Marylanders died because of intimate partner violence. That is the highest number of intimate partner violence homicides on record in fourteen years. Early data suggests that incidents of violent domestic crime in Baltimore City rose by 31 percent in 2021 compared to the year before. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is receiving historic amounts of outreach – and in February, that organization saw the highest number of calls, chats, and texts in its 25-year history. This rise in domestic violence is straining local providers who do so much to deliver resources to survivors.

“We must do more to combat the rising tide of domestic violence – utilizing every tool at our disposal to protect survivors and ensure their safety. That’s why it was so important to meet with leaders of organizations who are on the front lines supporting survivors of intimate partner and gender-based violence. We discussed the positive impact of some of the recent measures the Congress has taken to support their efforts, including expanding the Violence Against Women Act, fixing the Victims of Crime Fund, and closing the dangerous “boyfriend loophole” in our gun laws. I was also proud to secure federal funding for a number of local organizations doing life-saving work on the ground. But we also discussed the fact that the scourge of domestic violence has gone from bad to worse during the pandemic. That’s why we need to redouble our efforts, and I am grateful for the input and ideas the leaders brought to our roundtable discussion. I will continue to stand with domestic violence survivors and do everything I can to support local organizations who are making a difference in our communities,” said Senator Van Hollen.  

The Senator’s roundtable included representatives from CHANA, the DOVE Program with LifeBridge Health, Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence, and Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA). Also, as part of the fiscal year 2022 federal funding legislation, Senator Van Hollen secured a $600,000 direct investment for the LifeBridge Center for Hope – which houses the DOVE Program – alongside Congressmen John Sarbanes and Dutch Ruppersberger (both D-Md.), as well as $300,000 for JCADA to expand capacity alongside Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

“During the pandemic, CHANA has seen and responded to an unprecedented rise in domestic violence.  Our call volume has increased by 92%. The calls demonstrate that victims are experiencing abuse with greater frequency, severity and lethality.  Our advocates are spending exponentially more time with each client because the cases are all complicated, requiring a greater devotion of resources and expertise. We are grateful for the Senator’s continued focus on the increase in domestic violence and his support of legislation that impacts survivors and that funds programs like ours,” said Lauren Shaivitz, Esq. LMSW, Executive Director of CHANA. 

“The DOVE Program has seen large increases in potentially lethal cases of domestic violence, as well as more victims struggling with mental health issues. Senator Van Hollen's investment will help address the mental health needs and short-term emergency shelter to keep victims safe,” said Audrey E. Bergin, Manager, Domestic Violence (DOVE) Program, LifeBridge Health. 

“Senator Van Hollen is truly a bright light out of Washington who uses all the tools at his disposal to support local domestic violence service providers in Maryland.  We are grateful for his leadership and continual advocacy on behalf of survivors,” said Jennifer Pollitt Hill, Executive Director, Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence. 

"Due to the efforts of Senator Van Hollen, and Representative Jamie Raskin, JCADA secured an earmark this year that will allow us to support even more survivors of intimate partner violence with our free, trauma-informed services and support for our incredible staff. With rising inflation, the potential onset of a recession and unprecedented levels of mental health needs, the burdens on those in the nonprofit and victim services sector continue to mount. We need more federal, state and local funding, as well as donations from caring community members, to create decent pay, leave opportunities, professional development, new technology for virtual learning and tele-appointments, and physical safety and security improvements to our organizations," said Amanda Katz, Executive Director, JCADA.  

The Violence Against Women Act reauthorized in the fiscal year 2022 government funding bill reauthorized all current VAWA grant programs until 2027. That includes the Rape Prevention and Education grant program to provide services, protection, and justice for young victims of violence; the STOP Violence Against Women Formula Program to enhance judicial and law enforcement tools to help crack down on domestic violence; and the SMART Prevention Program to reduce dating violence. The reauthorization also included several historic milestones, including provisions to expand jurisdiction for American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes and increase services and supports for historically underserved populations – including LGBTQ+ survivors, survivors with disabilities, immigrant survivors, older Americans, and others. 

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act which passed last month closed the “boyfriend loophole” that allowed domestic abusers to purchase guns. Now, convicted domestic violence abusers in dating relationships will be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS). The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act also includes other important provisions to crack down on gun violence and expand mental health services in order to reduce the threat of violence across the country.