Security and Financial Empowerment Act of 2015 ensures critical economic protections are available for survivors of domestic violence
Tuesday U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and U.S. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act of 2015. The SAFE Act builds on progress made through legislation like the Violence Against Women Act and the Affordable Care Act to continue raising awareness and breaking down the economic barriers that domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking create for survivors and their families.
The SAFE Act would ensure survivors who need services like medical attention and legal assistance can take safe leave from work, allow survivors who had to leave their job to receive unemployment insurance, protect survivors from being fired because of harassment by an abuser 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.
“As we work to combat the ongoing public health epidemic of domestic violence, we should be doing everything we can to break down economic barriers that survivors and their families face,” said Murray. “Survivors should not have to choose between economic security and safety. The SAFE Act would take critical steps to ensure survivors aren’t trapped in abusive relationships for financial reasons, and can seek protections at work without fear of punishment.”
The SAFE Act ensures that critical economic protections for these survivors are available in every state, so that no woman or man has to make the tragic choice of risking their safety to protect their livelihood. This legislation supports survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking by giving them tools to securely make the often difficult choice to seek help or leave an abusive situation. The SAFE Act would:
- Allow a survivor to take up to 30 days off from work in a 12-month period, including seven days of paid time off consistent with the Healthy Families Act, 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, sought modifications at work to increase workplace safety in response to domestic or sexual violence, or were subjected to exploitation of intimate partner images;
- Require employers to make reasonable safety precautions or job-related modifications if requested, unless doing so would impose an undue burden on the employer;
- Ensure that survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking who have been separated from their employment as a result of such violence are eligible for unemployment insurance; and
- Invest in a national awareness campaign to encourage a culture of prevention and support for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
Organizations supporting the SAFE Act of 2015: National Domestic Violence Hotline, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, American Association of University Women, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Women’s Law Center, The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, Legal Momentum, Legal Voice, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Washington State Sexual Assault Coalition Program, and YWCA Works.
FACT SHEET: The SAFE Act of 2015
Although we have come a long way since the days when domestic violence was “just a family issue” and a “pre-existing condition,” there is no question there is much more to do to combat this ongoing public health epidemic. One in four women and one in seven men have suffered physical violence by an intimate partner,which has a devastating impact on a survivor’s physical and emotional health, as well as their financial security. And survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking often find that abuse and threats follow them from home into the workplace.
The SAFE Act builds on progress made through legislation like the Violence Against Women Act and the Affordable Care Act to continue raising awareness and breaking down the economic barriers that domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking create for survivors and their families – because no one should have to choose between financial security and physical safety.
Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking lose nearly eight million days of paid work—the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs. Abusers often use economic necessities like rent, health care, and child care to exert control over their victims. It is critical that those suffering from violence and threats have the flexibility to take time off from work to address needs like obtaining health care, appearing in court, and finding transitional housing in order to leave abusive relationships and prevent sexual assault or threats – but too often, that flexibility is not available.
Today, a woman 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 SAFE Act allows survivors to take time off without penalty to make court appearances, seek legal assistance, and get help with safety planning for herself or a loved one. Only 33 states and the District of Columbia have laws that explicitly provide unemployment insurance to survivors of domestic violence under certain circumstances. In addition, only 17 states provide survivors with leave from work to go to court, to go to the doctor, or to take other steps to address domestic violence. For too many women and men, access to these essential services can mean the difference between life and death. And that is unacceptable.