Kuster, Joyce Introduce Legislation To Reauthorize Critical Funding for the National Sexual Assault Hotline

Jun 29, 2021
Press

Washington, D.C. — Today, Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH-02) and Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH-14) introduced the bipartisan National Sexual Assault Hotline Grants Reauthorization Act. This legislation reauthorizes important federal grants for the National Sexual Assault Hotline (NSAH). NSAH, operated by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), is the nation’s primary provider of services to survivors of sexual violence and includes the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline (NSAOH).

“Each year, hundreds of thousands of Americans in abusive and dangerous situations reach out to the National Sexual Assault Hotline (NSAH) for help and support,” said Rep. Kuster, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “The Hotline is a vital national resource that is made possible through the dedication of staff and volunteers at RAINN. NSAH’s call volume reached a staggering record high in 2020, and it is clear that action must be taken to ensure it can continue to respond to this demand. I’m proud to team up with Congressman Joyce to reauthorize key federal grants for NSAH that have been dormant for years. It has never been more essential for federal funds to leverage and supplement the critical work of NSAH to protect survivors.”

“Crimes of sexual violence are much more common than most people realize,” said Congressman Joyce, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “The harsh reality is that the COVID-19 pandemic put countless Americans at an even greater risk for these crimes, especially children. Thankfully, many survivors have been able to rely on the National Sexual Assault Hotline for anonymous support, advice and often lifesaving information. It is critical that we do everything we can to maintain this hotline for survivors to turn to in the wake of sexual assault or abuse. I’m proud to partner with my friend and colleague Rep. Kuster to reauthorize federal grants for the National Sexual Assault Hotline so that it can continue to provide survivors with unfettered access to support and safety.”

“We are grateful to Reps. Kuster and Joyce for spearheading this effort to reauthorize grants that will enable RAINN to continue supporting survivors in crisis through the National Sexual Assault Hotline,” said Scott Berkowitz, President of RAINN. “Over the past year, RAINN saw the highest demand in our 27-year history, serving an average of 27,000 visitors every month on our hotline. Since March of 2020, as the pandemic led to stay-at-home orders, the majority of victims receiving help from our online hotline have been minors. This reauthorization will help RAINN meet this increased demand, and we appreciate Reps. Kuster and Joyce for standing with survivors and leading this effort.”

Since 1994, RAINN’s victim service programs, in partnership with more than 1,000 local service providers, have helped more than 3.6 million people impacted by sexual violence. In the last five years, the number of people served by these programs has doubled, from 154,285 in 2015 to 323,122 in 2020. NSAH is a no-cost, confidential service where trained support specialists provide live, secure, anonymous crisis support, advice and information to survivors. Often, a Hotline staff member is the first person a survivor discloses their abuse to, and the hotline may be the only resource someone has access to, particularly for children facing abuse at home.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of victims using RAINN’s online hotline services have been minors. Of minors who discussed coronavirus-related concerns, 67% identified their perpetrator as a family member and 79% said they were living with that perpetrator. It is more important than ever that children enduring sexual abuse have access to this service. NSAH services are available in English and Spanish, and staff can also route callers to local sexual assault service providers that can follow up with in-person support, information about local laws, and judgment-free support in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

Originally enacted in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, $3 million in federal grants were administered by the Department of Justice to help maintain NSAH’s victim service programs and thereby provide millions of Americans the support they need after facing sexual assault or abuse. The authorization expired a decade ago. With traffic to the hotline rising substantially in the wake of both the #MeToo movement and the COVID-19 pandemic, the NSAH’s services have never been more taxed nor more necessary.

Representatives Kuster and Joyce are two of the founding co-chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, which works to raise awareness and propose solutions to the challenges posed by sexual assault and violence. The Task Force’s areas of focus include K-12 education, campus sexual violence, the rape kit backlog, military sexual trauma, improved data and collection, online harassment, and law enforcement training. In May 2021, the Task Force held a roundtable discussion on child abuse – at which RAINN was invited to provide testimony about NSAH’s important work. Congresswoman Kuster has long been a champion for survivors of sexual violence, sharing her ownpersonal experiences involving sexual assault on the House floor and joining with 17 other Members of Congress to read Emily Doe’s open letter describing her attack and ensuing trial – which marked the first time a victim’s statement has been read in full in the House chambers.

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