Senator Murray Meets with Survivors, Advocates, and Tribal Leaders on VAWA, Which Includes Murray-Led Legislation to Help Sexual Assault Survivors Access Care

Senator Murray: “VAWA was a badly-needed and overdue step, but I won’t stop pushing until every survivor has access to justice and the care they need.”

ICYMI: Murray, Jayapal, Advocate Leah Griffin Celebrate Passage of Legislation to Help Sexual Assault Survivors Access Care in VAWA – MORE HERE 

(Seattle, WA) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, hosted a roundtable with survivors, tribal leaders, and advocates to discuss the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)—which she was instrumental in finally reauthorizing this past year—and which includes key provisions from her Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act (SASCA) and expands protections for indigenous communities under federal law. 

At the roundtable, Senator Murray was joined by Norine Hill, Executive Director of Mother Nation; Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center; Judy Chen, Executive Director of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“No survivor should ever be overlooked or turned away when they seek care or justice after experiencing sexual violence or assault. But the painful reality is that too many survivors still fight to be heard—or can’t access the care they need to heal and seek justice. When Leah Griffin first shared her story with me back in 2014—about facing sexual assault, but being told to ‘try somewhere else’ when she sought a sexual assault examination—I was furious, and I have worked non-stop since then to make progress on this and get survivors the support they deserve,” said Senator Murray. “I worked hard to finally reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and I’m so proud that we not only improved it in key ways to support tribal communities, but also included key provisions from my Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act that I worked on with Leah. VAWA was a badly-needed and overdue step, but I won’t stop pushing until every survivor has access to justice and the care they need.”

“We are proud the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2022 continues to strengthen legislation refusing to leave any survivor behind,” said Norine Hill, Executive Director and Founder of Mother Nation. “Mother Nation will continue to work with our Indigenous Sisters to ensure that VAWA’s protections can be the reality for all our relatives” 

“Domestic violence survivors and their children are in dire need of safe housing, flexible financial assistance, and trauma-informed advocacy. What we’re hearing from domestic violence programs around the state is that crisis calls and requests for safe housing have increased 30%, 40%, and even 60%. One domestic violence program had to turn away 2,600 requests for emergency shelter,” said Judy Chen, Executive Director, Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “VAWA re-authorization takes important steps to fund housing stability and direct cash assistance for survivor households, so they can get safe and stabilize, protect their children, and start re-building their lives.”

Senator Murray first introduced SASCA in 2016, after her constituent, Leah Griffin, shared her personal story of surviving a sexual assault and then getting turned away from a hospital when it was unable to administer a rape kit—ultimately contributing to prosecutors declining to file criminal charges. Since then, she has fought to pass the critical legislation, and ultimately succeeded in including key provisions of the bill in the recent March reauthorization of VAWA which will help develop national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault, strengthen the sexual assault examiner workforce, and expand access to sexual assault examination services.

The reauthorization of VAWA also includes provisions that expand special criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts to cover non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, stalking, and sex trafficking on tribal lands. The reauthorization also increases services and support for survivors from underserved and marginalized communities—including LGBTQIA+ survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. VAWA also supports survivor-centered, community-based restorative practice services, including culturally specific services and services in rural communities.