Reflections on 2020: NNEDV’s Year in Review
December 23, 2020
A Statement from Deborah J. Vagins, NNEDV President and CEO
This past year will be one none of us will forget. As I reflect on this last year, which was also my first with NNEDV, I know that it was filled with loss and despair for many and challenges we could have never predicted when I started this job. Despite the many challenges we navigated in 2020, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) finishes the year with appreciation for the thousands of front line advocates, survivors, coalitions, local programs, service providers, and countless community members like you who came together to support each other in the face of the intersecting crises of the pandemic, economic insecurity, and ongoing racial injustice. Our work and the collective action of us all this year is a reminder that creating a safe world for everyone requires all of us to work together because we all play a role in creating change.
Amid these challenging times, NNEDV also commemorated its 30th anniversary, giving us an opportunity to reflect on our past accomplishments, while acknowledging the work that lies ahead. A lot has happened over the last year, and thanks to our community of supporters, NNEDV has served thousands of survivors, advocates, frontline workers, programs, and many more.
This year has reaffirmed the resilience of programs and survivors, and it has proven that the team at NNEDV rises to meet crises with skill and dedication. From our strength in crisis communications, to our policy skills on the Hill, to our capacity to train and support scores of advocates who transitioned to working remotely, and to our expert insight on the intersection of domestic violence and the pandemic, NNEDV is a strong voice and leader for survivors and advocates no matter the challenge. The following highlights provide a glimpse into the work of NNEDV over the last year, made possible because of the transformative power of community and collective action. I am so proud of our teams’ work and the work that you and NNEDV have done together this year.
Advancing the Needs of Survivors through Public Policy
Throughout the year the Public Policy team advocated on behalf of programs to secure federal resources and improve policies, led a national response on COVID-19 federal relief packages to meet the needs of survivors, and developed priorities for the next Administration.
In March, NNEDV announced the findings from its 14th Annual Domestic Violence Counts Report during a bipartisan congressional briefing. The report is a 24-hour snapshot of the services provided by thousands of local domestic violence programs—and the requests, unfortunately, that they could not meet due to a lack of resources. The stories and data inform state and national policy discussions about the ongoing needs of survivors and programs.
This past June, participants from 42 states joined our annual Advocacy Days to meet virtually with over 150 Congressional offices and advocate for survivors and local programs. The event was an incredible success with nearly 300 coalition members, local advocates, and survivors in attendance. These meetings are a crucial part of our collaborative process to increase funding and make legislative change.
Thanks to the advocacy of coalitions and local programs, the Public Policy team secured funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (signed into law March 27, 2020). The CARES Act included $45 million for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) and $4 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants and other housing resources that domestic violence survivors are eligible to access. Input from coalitions and advocates had a big impact at the end of the year as our advocacy for additional COVID relief – and for increased annual funding for domestic violence services – intensified. We will keep working to secure these needed resources.
And as we advocate for survivors and service providers – during COVID-19 and every day – we also recognize the depth of harm the criminal justice and other systems have caused survivors of color and other survivors who are historically or systemically marginalized. The Public Policy team held a series of conversations with member coalitions to gather input and identify next steps. We must build on the achievements of VAWA while moving in new directions rooted in the work of communities across the nation.
Exploring the Intersection of Gender-Based Violence and Technology Safety Through Safety Net
When states across the country began “shelter in place” orders, many coalitions and local programs faced the task of switching to working in a digital environment for the first time. Our Safety Net project went to work right away to support programs in this process, developing resources that would assist in a smooth transition for programs and survivors. Through these resources, webinars, and trainings, Safety Net helped advocates, service providers, and many others gain insights into the complexities of technology-facilitated abuse, developing a digital workplace and confidentiality, and helping survivors vote safely.
In June, nearly 750 advocates, state coalitions, technology companies, professionals in the justice system, and others gathered online for our Virtual Tech Summit. Now in its 8th year, this unique event provides a space for important conversations and content for those working to address and end domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, as well as those in the tech field who wish to develop products that protect the safety and confidentiality of its users. This year, the Summit explored the ways technology has evolved, including the dramatic increase in digital services in the work to support survivors during COVID-19.
Strengthening the Field and Supporting Trauma-Informed Approaches through Coalition Technical Assistance and Our Housing Project
Our 56 state and territorial coalitions are at the heart of what we do, and ensuring their readiness through COVID-19 has been our top priority during 2020. Throughout this year, our Coalition Technical Assistance (CTA) team has provided extensive training and assistance to coalitions on pressing issues related to the pandemic and ensuring that we are centering racial equity in our work. Through the CTA team’s support, coalitions, and programs received expert assistance on navigating issues like maintaining social distance while delivering services, safe housing in hotel environments, and appropriate screening practices. CTA also hosted webinar series with partners from culturally specific organizations, with sessions focusing on serving survivors from Asian-Pacific Islander, African American, Native American and Alaska Native, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities.
As we always say at NNEDV, housing is safety. Through our Housing project, NNEDV provides local, state, and national programs across the country with a range of educational opportunities and access to resources through training and specialized support. Through the Transitional Housing office hours, programs navigating housing barriers for survivors during COVID-19 have an opportunity to receive individualized support.
Working in a virtual space with advocates inspired the Housing team to develop e-learning courses for programs, which will be available next year. The team is working hard to produce engaging and informative courses that will cover important topics like confidentiality, stalking, serving the LGBTQ+ community, serving sexual assault survivors, and much more.
Through our Collaborative Approach to Housing for Survivors (CAHS) project, NNEDV partners with federal agencies and national housing and homelessness organizations to improve access to housing for survivors by developing resources, advocating for housing policies, and strengthening collaborations. This year, CAHS focused on the critical COVID-19 housing needs of survivors.
Centering Economic Justice for Survivors
This year our Economic Justice project continued to help prepare advocates to support survivors’ journey towards self-sufficiency through The Moving Ahead Curriculum, a financial literacy tool created with survivor safety in mind. The Economic Justice team worked with The Allstate Foundation to develop webinars and interactive trainings, providing an opportunity for domestic violence advocates to deepen their understanding of economic justice work.
The Economic Justice team also partnered with The Allstate Foundation to create the Economic Justice Council, an in-depth collaboration of national experts in the domestic violence field to advance the issues of survivors’ economic empowerment and well-being with a focus on the needs of survivors of color. The meetings culminated in a December Economic Justice Roundtable, with experts from the programmatic, policy, and corporate worlds discussing recommendations focused on how we can better support survivors in overcoming financial barriers.
Through the Independence Project, NNEDV continues to provide opportunities for survivors to improve their economic outcomes through its credit-building micro-loans. Since the Independence Project launched in 2017, over 402 borrowers have successfully completed their loans. Acknowledging the economic hardships many people were facing at the start of COVID-19, NNEDV provided relief payments for all Independence Project borrowers during April and May. In 2020, borrowers saw their credit score increase an average of 39 points, with one borrower increasing their credit score by 126 points. Thanks to generous funding from The Allstate Foundation, the Independence Project will provide micro-loans to 666 additional survivors in 2021.
Providing Tools for Self-Empowerment through WomensLaw
The pandemic has made the need for free, easily accessible legal information more urgent, especially given the increased isolation many are facing and the economic stressors that are putting legal representation even further out of reach. WomensLaw served as a greatly needed source of support for survivors navigating the legal system this year. At the start of the pandemic, state and local courthouses closed or postponed hearings to slow the spread of the virus. In response, WomensLaw created a resource related to navigating the court system during the pandemic. Additionally, the Email Hotline continued to serve as a lifeline for survivors in need, providing support to thousands of people throughout 2020.
WomensLaw also continues to lead the way in using digital tools in innovative ways to provide accessible legal information to survivors and advocates. In September, the team offered free Online Information Clinics (in English and Spanish), and options to chat with attorneys on restraining orders, including how to file, how to enforce, and how to handle common obstacles that may arise.
Addressing the Intersection of Domestic Violence and HIV/AIDs through Positively Safe
The Positively Safe project spent this year developing training curriculum, conducting webinars, developing additional tools, and providing individualized support to help domestic violence and HIV/AIDS advocates and organizations address the unique challenges and barriers facing HIV/AIDS-infected victims of domestic violence. During the year, Positively Safe took part in national and international HIV/AIDS conferences, developed e-learning modules, and led discussions surrounding topics like the challenges that survivors encounter when trying to access PrEP and other HIV services, safety planning, and COVID-19. To ensure survivors living with HIV can access information and support during the pandemic, NNEDV’s Positively Safe project partnered with the Positive Women’s Network-USA, to collect and share resources.
Providing Needed Resources during COVID-19
In addition to the countless hours our teams spent helping coalitions and programs respond to COVID-19, NNEDV was able to use our broad reach as a national organization to secure emergency funding and hard to find personal protective equipment for local programs and coalitions across the country. I am so grateful to our partners who joined us to help address the overwhelming needs of communities.
We are extremely proud of our partnership with The Allstate Foundation through which we were able to distribute more than $1,000,000 in emergency small grants to local domestic violence programs. Earlier this year, The Allstate Foundation provided more than $500,000 in emergency assistance small grants to local programs to help cover the immediate needs presented by COVID-19. NNEDV evaluated and distributed 124 grants of $4,500 to local domestic violence organizations. In the fall, The Allstate Foundation provided an additional $565,000 to exclusively support culturally specific domestic violence organizations to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on survivors of color. NNEDV once again coordinated oversight and implementation of this much-needed program.
In addition, through partnerships with several organizations including ProCure Hope and The Allstate Foundation, NNEDV secured donations of over 178,000 surgical masks, KN95 masks, and face shields for domestic violence shelters and survivors. During the month of June, NNEDV also partnered with Overture to launch a “PPE Online Pop-Up Shop” to help facilitate the sale of PPE exclusively to domestic and sexual violence organizations. The store bulk ordered products for over 1,200 organizations and individuals—including over 1.1 million masks, 146,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, and 122,000 packages of disinfectant wipes.
Recovery after COVID-19 won’t be linear; we expect our rapid response work with programs and survivors to continue for months after the pandemic ends.
Outreach and Education to Raise Awareness and
Support for Survivors
NNEDV shines a light on domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking and the ongoing obstacles survivors encounter when considering whether to seek help through our outreach and education work. This year, we had many exciting opportunities to raise awareness about the needs of survivors during COVID-19, including a virtual music festival with Stella McCartney, partnering with Glamour Magazine during Giving Tuesday Now, and working with YouTube and Google on the #ISeeYou public service campaign and video about the resources available to survivors seeking help. We appreciate all of the opportunities we had this year to uplift the work of domestic violence programs, show our support for survivors, and change the narrative around domestic violence.
Our Commitment to Survivors Continues in 2021
In our 30-year history, NNEDV’s priority has always been to create a social, political, and economic environment in which domestic violence no longer exists. As we finally say goodbye to 2020 and look ahead to 2021, NNEDV is ready to continue to work alongside coalitions and programs in order to meet the needs of all survivors, particularly those who remain underserved during these difficult times. We hope for a future where every home is a safe home.
Thank you for the work you do in your communities and your support of NNEDV and survivors of domestic violence.
Deborah J. Vagins, NNEDV President and CEO