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Senate Passes Shaheen-Sullivan Bill to Support Victims of Violence by Making the POWER Act Permanent

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) celebrated the Senate’s unanimous passage of their bipartisan bill to remove the sunset date for the Pro Bono Work to Empower and Represent (POWER) Act, which was set to expire later this year after being signed into law in 2018.  

The POWER Act helps combat domestic violence and sexual assault across the country by holding summits that encourage lawyers to offer pro bono legal services to survivors of these crimes. In 2021, the POWER Act resulted in 73 pro bono legal summits across the nation, reaching more than 11,000 attorneys.  

“I’m thrilled the Senate advanced this critical legislation, which is a victory for survivors bravely seeking justice. This bill extends authorization of a pivotal program that incentivizes lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. As Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for the Office on Violence Against Women, I’ve long prioritized measures like this that support those who’ve endured sexual violence and trauma,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m glad to work with Senator Sullivan and this bipartisan group of lawmakers to deliver this legislation through the Senate, and I urge the House to move swiftly so we can ensure there is no gap in access to services for those who need it.” 

“Studies have shown, without legal representation, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault have less of a chance of securing a protective order and escaping the cycle of violence,” said Senator Sullivan. “Many lawyers are more than willing to donate some of their time and knowledge to help vulnerable survivors navigate the complex legal system. The key is letting attorneys know about the significant need that exists and how they can get involved. This was the motivation behind my 2018 POWER Act—a continuation at the national level of our efforts in Alaska with the Choose Respect initiative. In the years since the POWER Act became law, we’ve amassed an army of thousands of lawyers who are lifting women and children out of horrible situations. But the epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault has not stopped—and neither will we. Thanks to my colleagues’ support in the Senate, we’re going to continue to grow this army of lawyers, and bring hope and healing to many more victims and survivors across the country and in our great state.” 

The POWER Act requires the administrative office of the federal judiciary to submit a compilation and summary of reports received from the chief district judges detailing each public event conducted in the previous fiscal year.  

Background on the POWER Act

  • The National Network to End Domestic Violence estimated that over the course of one day in September 2014, up to 10,000 requests for services by abused women, including legal representation, weren’t met due to a lack of resources. 
  • Research has shown that when abuse victims are represented by an attorney, their ability to break out of the cycle of violence increases dramatically. For example, one study found that 83 percent of victims represented by an attorney were able to obtain a protective order compared to just 32 percent of victims without an attorney.  

As Chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee which funds programs in the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate to boost services and programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence – especially through the pandemic. As a senior appropriator, Shaheen has secured the highest funding level ever for VAWA programs for five consecutive years. The FY 2022 government funding legislation also included a bipartisan bill to modernize and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act by aiding domestic violence prevention and support organizations, protecting survivors and promoting safer communities for women and families. Last year, she reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Grassley (R-IA) to build on her legislation that is now law, the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, by incentivizing states to pass legislation that guarantees the survivors rights included in the federal legislation. She also introduced bill to reauthorize legislation to expand pro bono legal resources for victims and survivors.