Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the Security and Financial Empowerment Act, better known as the SAFE Act.
Domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are widespread problems that affect Americans from every background, ethnicity, and race. The prevalence of this violence is highlighted by the fact that nearly one in four women are beaten or sexually assaulted by a partner during adulthood and advocates are reporting an increase in the severity of these violent incidents.
These crimes have serious societal costs and gave physical and psychological impacts on their victims. Credible research has found that many women are trapped in abusive relationships due to their economic circumstances. As a result, victims often face the terrifying choice of living with abuse or leaving without the ability to support themselves and their children.
Under the SAFE Act, victims can take limited leave from work for safety planning and necessary court appearances without fear of losing their job. The SAFE Act also provides job protection when reasonable workplace safety modifications are requested.
The recent tragedy in Seal Beach, California--where a salon employee's ex-husband allegedly opened fire and killed 8 people--vividly illustrates how disputes at home can lead to violence in the workplace. To help employers address this issue, the bill reauthorizes the National Workplace Resource Center grant program. These grants will be made available to qualified organizations to establish and operate resource centers that assist employers on how to protect all their employees as well as those who are victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
The SAFE Act also protects victims of domestic abuse by prohibiting employers from making hiring decisions and insurance companies from refusing coverage based on an individual's history of abuse.
Finally, the SAFE Act makes it possible for a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking eligible for unemployment insurance if it is necessary for an employee to leave a job to escape the abuse.
The SAFE Act is a critical step towards helping victims of domestic violence and sexual assault to become survivors by giving them the financial security they need to seek help and end their dependence on abusive partners and ultimately break the cycle of violence in their lives.
I want to thank the many dedicated advocates and organizations who work tirelessly every day to empower victims of physical and sexual abuse. They face daunting challenges as the demand for their services continues to increase even as their funding sources at the local, state, and federal levels are being slashed. Their input, expertise, and support have been invaluable in crafting the SAFE Act.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me and Congressman Ted Poe in co-sponsoring and helping to pass the SAFE Act. For far too many people, the safety nets in this bill are literally the difference between life and death. The time to act is now.
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