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Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster

Representing the 2nd District of New Hampshire

Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence Holds Virtual Roundtable Discussion to Address Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jul 29, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC - Today, the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, led by Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Dave Joyce (R-OH) and John Katko (R-NY), held a virtual roundtable conversation to discuss how state and local organizations that combat sexual violence are navigating the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gender-based violence and domestic violence are often exacerbated in times of crisis, with Turning Points Network Crisis Center in New Hampshire’s Sullivan County reporting a 271 percent increase in home page views from March. This roundtable also examined how the virus has exacerbated racial disparities in access to care. According to the National Organization for Women Foundation, over 18 percent of all African American women report being abused in their lifetime, and the vast majority of survivors are unlikely to report at all. The Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence regularly holds roundtable discussions - last month, the Task Force co-chairs held a virtual roundtable on addressing sexual and domestic violence during the COVID-19 crisis.

The co-chairs and panelists discussed how income level, incarceration status, line of work, location, ethnicity and race intersect and impact the ability of survivors to access the services, support and care they need to leave abusive situations. In addition, language barriers, immigration status and the stigmatization of Asian Americans were also discussed as roadblocks too many survivors face when they reach out for help.

The Task Force was joined today by:

-Monika Johnson Hostler, President of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and the Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault 

-Rosa Beltré, Executive Director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence

-Condencia Brade, Executive Director of the National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault

-Patima Komolamit, Shelter Program Director at the Center for the Pacific Asian Family

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a terrible toll on survivors and presented them with new sets of challenges,” said Rep. Kuster, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “From survivors trapped in quarantine at home with an abuser, to those who feel unable to leave their jobs despite being harassed, the situation is grim. People of color who are survivors face even greater hurdles in escaping abusive environments and getting support due to racial barriers in access to care. I want to thank the panel of experts who joined us today to help us further take stock of this situation - their insights are critical as Congress works to help frontline advocates address this violence. I look forward to our continued work together to ensure all Granite Staters and people across the country can live in safe environments free from abuse and harassment.” 

“Sexual violence is a forgotten crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic. Demand for services has increased, but physical distancing practices combined with our current economic crisis have left sexual assault programs struggling to keep their doors open. Without the funding needed to cope with our new reality, survivors – particularly survivors of color – will be left without desperately-needed services and care. This is completely unacceptable in a country with our vast wealth and resources. Survivors of sexual violence deserve better than this,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence

“Today’s roundtable was critically important in highlighting the dire need to provide organizations that tackle domestic and sexual violence with additional resources during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Katko, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “In Central New York, we are extremely grateful for organizations like Vera House, YWCA of Syracuse & Onondaga County, Cayuga Counseling Services, the Victim Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, and Oswego County Opportunities Crisis & Development, who work tirelessly to support survivors in our community. Unfortunately, with increased restrictions on providing in-person services and unprecedented limitations on available resources, these organizations face growing strains on their ability to maintain the safety of staff and survivors, especially in minority communities. During the pandemic and beyond, we must provide these vital groups with the resources they need to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”

“As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that we further our efforts to understand how it has impacted state and local organizations that tackle sexual and domestic violence so that we can properly support them at the federal level,” said Rep. Dave Joyce, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “The harsh reality is that during these challenging times, Americans at the greatest risk for such violence have lost access to the resources that are often vital to escaping abuse. We must continue to improve our response to this pandemic, including efforts to combat crimes of sexual and domestic violence, provide survivors with access to the resources they need, and bring perpetrators to justice. Today’s important discussion helped us better understand how to do just that.” 

“The pandemic has upended all our lives—most especially those already living with trauma,” said Monika Johnson Hostler, President of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and the Executive Director of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “Local sexual assault programs provide the frontline response to sexual assault survivors in their communities day in and day out. They remain passionate about meeting the needs of survivors in this new reality, but they need help from Congress.”

“The Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence is honored to have the opportunity to address the issues of racial disparities in the midst of COVID, and how COVID has changed the landscape of how communities of color that are sexual assault survivors are being served,” said Rosa Beltré, Executive Director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence.  “COVID-19 has forced us to completely change the way we approach both our advocacy and prevention efforts. However, we are all aware that sexual violence does not stop, even as it seems our world has to some degree. The COVID-19 outbreak has flipped our world upside down, and has even added to another public health crisis: Our data suggests that sexual violence is flourishing in the conditions created by the pandemic. The time is now to amplify the voices of survivors of sexual violence and even more of those that continue to be marginalized and oppressed by racism in this country.” 

Today’s virtual roundtable can be viewed here