June 23, 2022

Cortez Masto Introduces Innovative Legislation to Support Domestic Violence Survivors

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced legislation to provide immediate support from trained advocates for domestic violence victims. The Reaching Every Survivor With Police and On-Site Nonprofit Services Evaluations Act (RESPONSE Act) of 2022 would create a pilot program, based on a model pioneered in Las Vegas by SafeNest, that allows advocates to provide critical services, including support, safety planning, legal options, and information about community resources, to survivors at the scene of a domestic violence crime.

“In a crisis, Nevadans who are victims of domestic violence need an immediate law enforcement response to keep them safe, but they also need support, resources, and help with safely planning for the future,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “My bill will get survivors information at a critical time, right when they need it. This legislation will help communities across the country save lives and set survivors of abuse and assault on a path to healing.”

“When SafeNest advocates began working closely with police, the understanding created between the two worlds was eye-opening,” said Liz Ortenburger CEO of SafeNest. “We have created a mutual understanding and respect for the work we both do, and most importantly, we have saved lives and supported survivors in much more prolific ways than ever before.”

The RESPONSE Act would create a pilot grant program under the Department of Justice for nonprofit domestic violence service providers and local law enforcement agencies to establish a coordinated dispatch program to provide immediate services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or dating violence. This pilot program is modeled after a partnership between SafeNest and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that Senator Cortez Masto learned about in January. Called Project Safe 417, the pilot program has resulted in a decrease in repeat domestic violence calls and in homicides related to domestic violence.

The RESPONSE Act is endorsed by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, SafeNest, the National District Attorneys Association, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

The full bill text is available here.

Senator Cortez Masto has been an outspoken advocate for victims of domestic violencesexual assault, and human trafficking. She cosponsored and helped secure passage of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which will help law enforcement arrest violent predators and improve access to resources for survivors. Her bipartisan Fairness for Rape Kit Backlog Survivors Act, which requires state programs to allow sexual assault victims to file for compensation without being unfairly penalized for delays due to rape kit backlogs, was included in the reauthorization. She also led the call for robust funding for the Byrne JAG grant program in the FY2022 omnibus to make sure that law enforcement has the resources it needs to hold perpetrators accountable. She has introduced bipartisan legislation to provide survivors of domestic violence with the opportunity to withdraw money from their retirement plans without penalty in an emergency and to require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collect data on the connection between domestic violence and traumatic brain injuries.