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Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act of 2019 addresses economic barriers that can prevent survivors of domestic violence from taking steps to keep themselves and their families safe

Senator Murray: “No survivor of domestic violence should feel forced to choose between their safety and their paycheck, their job, or their ability to support their family”

Washington, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray, (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA),  vice chair of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, reintroduced the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act, to help break down economic barriers for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

The SAFE Act builds on legislation like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with steps to ensure survivors who need services like medical attention and legal assistance can take leave from work, allow survivors who have to leave their jobs to receive unemployment insurance, protect survivors from being fired because they experienced violence 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.

“No survivor of domestic violence should feel forced to choose between their safety and their paycheck, their job, or their ability to support their family,” Senator Murray said. “That’s why I’m fighting to tackle the economic barriers that can prevent survivors from taking the steps they need to seek justice and keep themselves and their families safe, and I hope members on both sides of the aisle will join me to make this happen.”

The Senate bill is also cosponsored by the Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-WI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The House bill has 55 cosponsors.

About the SAFE Act of 2019

One in four women and one in nine men have suffered sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner. People who experience intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking often find that abuse and threats follow them from home into the workplace. 

Today, an employee can use the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a sick or injured spouse, but cannot use it 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. 

Organizations supporting the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act of 2019 include: Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network, Futures Without Violence, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Legal Momentum, and Jewish Women International.

“All of us have a role in ending and preventing domestic violence and sexual assault. Access to financial resources is critical for domestic violence and sexual assault victims to be able to recover from and escape abuse. We applaud the introduction of this important legislation that recognizes the link between financial security and safety for victims and their children,” said Grace Huang, Policy Director, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence.

“When survivors of violence have stable access to resources that help them build economic resiliency they, their families, and their communities are much more likely to remain safe and secure. We are incredibly grateful to Senator Murray and Rep. Roybal-Allard’s offices for considering the economic security of survivors by introducing the SAFE Act,” said Marium Durrani, Director of Policy, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV).

“Economic abuse is a key tactic used by perpetrators of domestic violence. We are deeply grateful to Sen. Murray and Rep. Roybal-Allard for standing with survivors of domestic violence, whose safety and economic security may depend on supports like safe leave in order to go to court, access to unemployment insurance when abuse makes it impossible to work, and other vital protections extended by the SAFE Act,” said Linda A. Seabrook, General Counsel, Futures Without Violence.