Shaheen Helps Introduce Bill to Combat Domestic Violence and Expand Pro Bono Legal Resources

October 29, 2021

**Original POWER Act, signed into law in 2018, requires reauthorization before four-year sunset date in 2022** 

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). Chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee which funds programs in the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), today introduced legislation with Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to permanently extend the authorization for the Pro Bono Work to Empower and Represent (POWER) Act. The POWER Act, which helps combat domestic violence and sexual assault by encouraging lawyers across the country to offer pro bono legal services to victims and survivors of these crimes, was originally signed into law in 2018, but is set to expire after 2022. In 2020, the POWER Act resulted in 75 pro bono legal summits across the nation, reaching more than 43,000 Americans in need of legal assistance.

“Over the last few years, our nation has experienced a sea change surrounding the urgent need to combat sexual violence in our society. As a fierce advocate for survivors and Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for Violence Against Women Act programs, prioritizing policies and initiatives that help survivors recover and seek justice are always my top concerns. I’m glad to partner with Senator Sullivan on the POWER Act 2.0 to bolster efforts in Congress on behalf of survivors and to hold perpetrators to account,” said Shaheen. “By requiring every judicial district in the country to hold a yearly summit focusing on pro bono services to survivors, we can inform our communities on how best to help those affected take one more step toward justice. It is on all of us to end sexual assault in our society and this legislation is a meaningful effort toward that goal.”

The POWER Act mandates that each year, the chief judge of each judicial district across the country hold at least one event promoting pro bono legal services as a critical way to empower survivors of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault, to engage citizens, and to help lift victims out of the cycle of violence. The bill also requires that every two years, an event be held in areas with high numbers of Native Americans and Alaska Natives, with a focus on addressing these issues among Native populations.

The POWER Act also 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.

Through her leadership on the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee which funds programs in the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), Shaheen has led on combating violence against women. Earlier this month, she announced that for the fifth time, she secured the highest funding level ever for Violence Against Women Act programs, totaling $760 million, in federal funding legislation announced by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shaheen also recently called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to include funding for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs in the reconciliation package.

Throughout the pandemic, Senator Shaheen has worked to provide more resources and services to domestic violence survivors nationwide. She recently introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Grassley (R-IA) that would help ensure federal rights for survivors of sexual assault – which were codified by Shaheen’s Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act – are recognized and protected at the state level. She also helped lead calls to Congressional leadership to include additional funding to support the victims of child abuse, domestic violence and dating violence in COVID-19 response legislation. Earlier this year, she pushed for a swift vote in the Senate to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which expired two years ago, after the House passed the legislation. Last year, she visited the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) in Concord, where she met with NHCADSV’s leadership and representatives from crisis centers to hear more about the impact COVID-19 has had on survivors and the state’s crisis centers. 

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