Let’s spend $22m supporting survivors of tech-enabled abuse, lawmakers suggest

A bipartisan trio of US lawmakers has proposed a law that pledges as much as $22 million of public funding to help victims of tech-enabled domestic abuse.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) introduced the Tech Safety for Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Act [PDF] this week.

(Given that this session of Congress is about to end, and a new one begin in early January, this law bill will have to be reintroduced.)

If somehow approved all the way through Congress, the proposed law would earmark $2 million in grants for clinics and other partnerships that provide support to sexual and domestic violence victims who are experiencing technology-powered abuse. 

This type of abuse spans everything from stalking, harassing and threatening on social media platforms or via text messages, to attempting to control victims using digital blackmail or installing spyware apps on phones.  

The funding would be administered through a pilot project run by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, and provide grants for up to 15 groups. Grant recipients could use the funding to buy replacement devices for survivors, or “any other use” that helps reduce technology-enabled abuse or assist victims, according to the proposal. 

Additionally, the bill would establish a second grant program. This one, also under the DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women, would award up to $20 million to nonprofits, colleges, and universities to allow them to develop training and educational programs and provide technical assistance for organizations and individuals that help survivors.

“Survivors of domestic abuse shouldn’t have to worry about an abusive partner tracking them on social media or hacking into their email or other accounts to get information on their location or other aspects of their life,” Wyden said in a statement.

“These scary practices have become all too common, and yet, there are not enough resources to help protect survivors from the misuse of technology by their abusers,” he added. “Education and training, as well as support for more clinics with expertise in domestic abuse and technology, are desperately needed to get survivors the care they need.”

The bill cites a 2021 study by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, which found 97 percent of the programs providing support to victims of intimate partner violence have indicated that abusers also use technology to stalk, harass or control their victims.

Several organizations have endorsed the bill including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Legal Momentum, EndTAB, New Beginnings and Clinic to End Tech Abuse. ®

Read More

Jessica Lyons Hardcastle