On March 15, President Biden signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill which included the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization of 2022 (S. 3623), as well as funding increases for other key domestic violence programs.
Passage of this bill signals ongoing bipartisan support for responding to domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence. The bill provides funds to support housing, legal assistance, economic justice, and other core needs of survivors and the Maine programs that serve them. In addition, this reauthorization includes initiatives to enhance our response to domestic abuse, including by expanding prevention programming, investing in culturally specific service providers, and strengthening nondiscrimination protections.
“Every version of VAWA has made improvements over the prior,” says MCEDV Executive Director Francine Garland Stark. “This version does the same, guided by what survivors have told us they need: practical housing and economic supports, tribal jurisdiction, support for culturally specific organizations leading work in their own communities, and more. It’s by listening to survivors, learning, and evolving in our movement that we will be successful in ending domestic abuse.”
Federal funding is critically important for Maine’s response to domestic abuse. VAWA works alongside the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to provide most of the funds supporting MCEDV and our member Domestic Violence Resource Centers (DVRCs). Both FVPSA and VOCA were included in the omnibus funding bill at increased levels.
VAWA grant programs in Maine include the Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program and STOP Violence Against Women Formula Grants – currently supporting legal advocates and attorneys at multiple MCEDV member programs – and the Rural Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking Assistance Program, supporting specialized Domestic Violence-Child Protective Services Advocates working in Maine’s rural regions. FVPSA is the only dedicated funding specifically for domestic violence programs; in Maine, FVPSA funds support domestic abuse sheltering, helplines and other DVRC core services. VOCA funding in Maine supports training for advocates and other systems partners, facilitating their access to best practices and emerging trends and preparing them to center victim safety and offender accountability in all of their work. Recent examples of VOCA-funded trainings MCEDV has offered include Systems Advocacy in Health Care, Serving Muslim Survivors of Domestic Violence, and Facilitating All Gender Support Groups.
While VAWA funding did not cease when the authorization lapsed in 2018, it was rendered uncertain. The renewed stability afforded by VAWA’s reauthorization, along with the increases in FVPSA and VOCA funding, come at a time when across Maine, the demand for help that surged in COVID-19 has not abated. In 2021, DVRC calls with survivors increased 13% over 2020, on top of the 24% increase between 2020 and pre-COVID 2019. Last year, DVRCs provided more bed nights than in any recent year – nearly 35,000 – but despite this record they were only able to accept a fraction of those who were seeking shelter, as lack of safe and affordable long-term housing options left survivors stuck in shelter for long periods.
“The pandemic has made life more difficult for survivors across the board, at the same time that it has challenged the capacity of the programs to meet the needs of their communities,” says Garland Stark. “This funding bill will help us step into that gap alongside survivors.”
MCEDV and our member programs thank Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden for their support of this bill and their ongoing support of the work of MCEDV and our member programs.