During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Shaheen Reintroduces Bill to Provide Housing Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
**The Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act of 2017 would set a nationwide standard that survivors cannot be evicted or otherwise denied access to housing for being victims of those crimes**
(Washington, D.C.) – In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced legislation that would provide legal protections to ensure access to safe housing for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Building on existing legal protections in the Violence Against Women Act and the Fair Housing Act, the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act of 2017 would establish a nationwide standard that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault cannot be evicted or denied access to housing solely for being victims of those crimes. With the new protections included in this legislation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) would be provided clear and direct authority to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault from housing discrimination. The bill would also serve as a federal model to encourage more states to adopt similar protections. A companion bill was introduced in the House today by Representatives Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) and Lamar Smith (R-TX). Shaheen first introduced her legislation in July 2016.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault survivors have so many obstacles to overcome, and safe, reliable housing should not be one of them,” said Senator Shaheen. “It’s unconscionable that women who have survived heinous crimes can be removed from their homes and discriminated against as a result of the violence committed against them. Survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence deserve our support as they recover and rebuild. My legislation would ensure that we are no longer punishing victims for the crimes committed against them.”
According to a National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty survey of 76 legal and social service providers who handle evictions and housing denials, more than 10% of all evictions and more than 25% of housing denials involved victims of domestic violence because of the crimes committed against them. Women are frequently victims of violent acts by an intimate partner. One in four women will experience domestic violence or sexual assault in her lifetime, and women residing in low-income neighborhoods are twice as likely to be victims of intimate partner violence. As many as 50% of all homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence and 92% of homeless women have experienced severe physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives.
The Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (VAWA) provided the first housing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, however that legislation was limited to federally funded public housing and federally subsidized housing programs. Shaheen’s legislation would build on the protections included in VAWA and amend the Fair Housing Act to ensure that legal protections for domestic violence and sexual assault victims apply broadly across the housing market. Thirty-two domestic violence, fair housing, and legal service organizations have previously endorsed this effort including the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, American Civil Liberties Union, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act of 2017 is co-sponsored by Senators Al Franken (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
Senator Shaheen has been a leader in the Senate on providing protections and codifying new rights for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In 2016, President Obama signed Shaheen’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act into law, establishing basic rights for survivors of sexual assault.