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Remarks by Director Jessica Hart of the Office for Victims of Crime at a Roundtable on the Impact of the Pandemic on Serving Victims of Domestic Violence

Gerald Scroop

October 16, 2020

Welcome everyone, thanks so much being here today. This is such an important discussion to be having, especially right now in light of the pandemic.

Before we begin, I’d like to extend a special thank you to the National Domestic Violence Hotline for hosting this event. And to Katie Ray-Jones, Gloria Terry, and Jason Buckner for all the planning and coordination that went in to organizing the roundtable.

I’d also like to recognize all of the organizations that are here with us today as important allies in the fight to end domestic violence, including Governor Abbott’s office, the Texas Council on Family Violence, the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, SAFE Alliance, the Family Crisis Center, and Asian Family Support Services.

As the Director of the Office for Victims of Crime, I’m honored to join such an exceptional group of victim service professionals and eager to learn more about the important work that you are doing during this difficult time.

Your work is more important now than ever before. The pandemic has caused economic devastation and has isolated many people from family, friends, and support systems. Isolating a victim is just one of many controlling, coercive behaviors an abuser may use against a victim of domestic violence.  Other behaviors include threats, instilling fear, and other forms of emotional abuse.   

According to 2015 data, approximately, 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.

Tragically, domestic violence has increased significantly and become a crisis of its own within the pandemic. I know we’ll hear more about their experiences in just a bit, but in June, the National Domestic Violence Hotline reported that calls were up 9 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

Today, in response to this crisis, I am awarding $1.5 million dollars in funding to the National Domestic Violence Hotline to expand their digital services and technology-based tools to assist victims.

Through our Advancing the Use of Technology to Assist Victims of Crime program, the Hotline will enhance their current provider database by adding the function to track the availability of shelter beds online.

This is important work and will go a long way to ensuring the safety of domestic violence victims nationwide.

As we’ve learned, technology-based resources are critical for victims who must increasingly rely on digital services during the pandemic. One tangible result of our funding was DocuSAFE, a mobile app that allows survivors to log individual incidents of abuse to use as documentation and evidence collection to be used in prosecutions.

These awards are just part of a truly comprehensive and administration-wide effort to address domestic violence.

This year I’m announcing awards totaling more than $1.8 billion dollars to states to provide victim assistance and compensation. Today, I’m pleased to announce funding for the state of Texas of $163 million dollars.

This funding will go to support local responses to domestic abuse, including funding shelters, coalitions, positions within law enforcement agencies, therapy, civil legal services, Family Justice Centers, court advocates, domestic violence forensic interviewers, and relocation, housing, and transportation expenses.

The funding will continue to support victims of crimes, including domestic violence victims, throughout Texas as they seek the justice they so rightly deserve.  

And that brings us back to the purpose of today’s roundtable—serving victims of domestic violence during the pandemic.  It is so important that we hear about the challenges and also the innovative solutions.

Thank you for sharing your expertise.

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