ROCHESTER, NY – Today, Congressman Joe Morelle announced his co-sponsorship of legislation to address the uptick in domestic violence incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation will equip law enforcement officials with additional support and resources necessary to better protect innocent victims and their families.
“One of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to simply stay home—but unfortunately, too many Americans are not safe in their own homes,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “The uptick in domestic violence incidents since COVID-19 struck our nation is a sobering reminder that we must do more to address this scourge on our society and empower survivors. I’m proud to co-sponsor this important legislation to help law enforcement navigate these unprecedented circumstances to better protect innocent families.”
“This proposed legislation addresses a critical need for training and support for law enforcement officers who are on the front lines of our community’s response to domestic violence at great risk to themselves” said Meaghan de Chateauvieux, CEO, Willow Domestic Violence Center. “Survivors tell us that the in-the-moment reactions and decisions of the officers who respond to their 911 call can impact the trajectory of the survivors’ life.”
Stay-at-home orders have, unfortunately, left many individuals with no choice but to shelter in place with an abuser. Many state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies have reported a significant increase in domestic violence calls since implementing COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.
Calls to New York State’s domestic violence hotline were up 30 percent in April compared to last year, and calls increased 18 percent from February to March 2020. State Police have also reported domestic violence incident calls were up 15 percent in March compared to last year.
This legislation, H.R. 6633, would direct the Attorney General to work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and relevant domestic violence and law enforcement stakeholders to issue guidance that highlights best practices and resources that federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies can adopt to address domestic violence effectively while limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Law enforcement officers are often the first responders to domestic violence incidents, and ensuring they are equipped with the proper tools and training is critical to keeping themselves and survivors safe during this public health crisis.