News Releases

Murray Bill Would Help Domestic Violence Victims Escape Abusive Relationships

Oct 30 2003

Provides the economic means to free victims from abusive relationships

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Sen. Patty Murray has introduced legislation to help victims of domestic violence escape abusive relationships. The Security and Financial Empowerment Act (SAFE Act), S.1801, would provide unemployment benefits to women who must leave a job to flee an abusive relationship, it would provide legal assistance for victims, end insurance and employment discrimination against victims, and expand the Family & Medical Leave Act to enable victims to take time off to go to court to stop the abuse without losing their jobs.

Murray and former Senator Paul Wellstone first introduced this legislation in July 2001, which was then known as the Victims Economic Safety & Security Act (VESSA).

“We must not trap victims of domestic violence in abusive relationships because they don’t have the financial means to leave. We cannot allow them to be further victimized because of their circumstances,” said Murray during a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

“Over the years I’ve worked on the issue of domestic violence and talked to many women who have been in serious situations,” Murray continued. “When I asked them directly ‘why didn’t you leave’ which seems like such a common-sense thing to do when you are being abused, the answer invariably has been ‘I couldn’t afford to, I needed to take care of my children, I didn’t have the financial ability to leave this situation.’”

“What we want to do is take those barriers away so that we provide protection for women economically, so that they can feel secure enough to leave a situation that could be potentially fatal,” Murray added.

The bill would:

  • Protect victims who are forced to flee their jobs by extending unemployment insurance. Today a woman can receive unemployment compensation if she leaves her job because her husband must relocate. But, if that same woman must leave because she’s fleeing abuse, she can not receive unemployment compensation. The SAFE Act would extend assistance to these victims.

  • Protect victims by allowing them unpaid time from work to get the help they need. Today, a woman can use the FMLA to care for a sick or injured spouse. But a woman cannot use FMLA to go to court to stop abuse. The SAFE Act would allow victims of domestic or sexual violence to take leave of up to 30 days to seek assistance from outside medical, psychological and/or legal resources without penalty from their employer.

  • Protect victims of domestic violence from insurance discrimination. Currently, insurance companies classify domestic violence as a “high risk behavior,” leading to higher premiums or a denial of coverage. The SAFE Act would protect those victims by prohibiting insurers from denying, refusing to issue, canceling or adding a premium differential to victims of domestic violence.

The SAFE Act (Security and Financial Empowerment Act) was introduced by Murray today, with Senators Corzine (D-N.J.), Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dayton (D-Minn.) as co-sponsors. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Ca.).

The legislation is endorsed by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV). In a statement, Executive Director Nan Stoops said, “We applaud Senator Murray’s introduction of the SAFE Act and her efforts to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence. The goal of the SAFE Act is to ensure that victims of domestic violence have the economic security needed to escape violent relationships.”