Legislation would extend help to domestic violence victims

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Rep. Ted Poe introduced bipartisan legislation this week that would help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking break free from their abusers.The legislation coincides with Domestic Violence Awareness Month. "Domestic Violence Awareness Month is a fitting time to address the awful consequences of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking," Roybal-Allard said in a statement. "Not only do these crimes have serious physical and psychological impacts on victims, but the economic consequences perpetuate the abuse. Many victims stay with or return to their abusers because they are financially dependent on them." The Security and Financial Empowerment Act (SAFE Act) would help victims of domestic violence by: •Allowing a domestic violence survivor to take up to 30 days off from work in a 12-month period to receive medical attention, seek legal assistance, attend court proceedings and get help with safety planning. •Protecting 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. •Requiring employers to make reasonable safety precautions or job-related modifications if requested unless doing so would impose an undue burden on the employer. •Ensuring that victims 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. The SAFE Act also authorizes the director of the Office on Violence Against Women to award grants to eligible nonprofits. "Victims of domestic violence need time to seek medical care and necessary assistance just like anyone else suffering with health issues," said Poe, a Texas Republican. Currently 40 states and the District of Columbia have laws or regulations that explicitly provide unemployment insurance to domestic violence victims in certain circumstances, but none of the laws explicitly cover victims of sexual assault or stalking. "The SAFE Act is an important step forward in helping women who are being abused," said Esta Soler, president and founder of Futures Without Violence. "Importantly, the bill also recognizes the role employers play in fighting domestic violence and sexual assault..."

********** Published: November 03, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 29