Press Releases

Wexton Legislation Provides Support and Resources to Law Enforcement Responding to Surge of Domestic Violence Calls

Washington, DC -- Today, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) introduced the bipartisan Domestic Violence Public Health Emergency Guidance Act, to provide guidance and resources to law enforcement agencies responding to increased levels of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we see a surge in domestic violence here in Virginia and across the country, protecting survivors starts with ensuring our law enforcement officers have the resources they need to respond safely and effectively during this pandemic.” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “When I was a prosecutor, I worked closely with law enforcement to address domestic violence. These officers are saving lives every day, but they’re working under unprecedented circumstances. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we provide law enforcement with the support they need to protect themselves and survivors.”

“Virginia’s sexual and domestic violence crisis hotlines and programs have seen significant spikes in requests for emergency services and housing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid shelter at home orders, rising unemployment, and a recent wave of gun buying spurred by the Coronavirus, we are seeing conditions in which victims are experiencing increased isolation and escalating violence. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we support first responders in establishing safety and ensuring health for victims and families who are experiencing lethal violence. The Domestic Violence Public Health Emergency Guidance Act supports coordinated and strategic responses to these forms of violence during dangerous and uncertain times.” said Kristi VanAudenhove, Executive Director, Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance.

Under stay-at-home orders, many survivors have been left with no option but to shelter in place with an abuser. For many men and women, the COVID-19 public health emergency coupled with increased stress and anxiety from the financial burdens has made day to day life even more volatile and dangerous. Many state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies have reported a significant increase in domestic violence calls since implementing COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. In March, Virginia saw a 76% increase in calls to domestic violence emergency hotlines and 1,000 additional individuals sought overnight shelter from domestic violence.

Law enforcement officers are often the first responders to domestic violence, and the Domestic Violence Public Health Emergency Guidance Act would provide these essential workers with the tools and resources they need to keep themselves and survivors safe. 

Congresswoman Wexton’s legislation would direct the Attorney General to work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and relevant domestic violence and law enforcement stakeholders to issue guidance that highlights best practices and resources that federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies can adopt to address domestic violence effectively while ensuring the safety of law enforcement officers, their families, survivors of domestic violence and their children while limiting the spread of COVID-19.

The guidance would include best practices on limiting exposure to COVID-19, assessing and addressing domestic violence threats during the pandemic, enforcing domestic violence protective orders and child custody orders, and more. An educational resource guide would also be created: focused on risk factors unique to COVID-19 that increases the chances of escalation and lethality in domestic violence, training and investigation tools for officers, vicarious trauma resources, and resources for survivors during COVID-19.

Wexton’s bill is supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (JCADA), and the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance.

Wexton’s bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Representatives Joyce Beatty (OH), Anthony Brown (MD), Andre Carson (IN), TJ Cox (CA), Danny K. Davis (IL), Veronica Escobar (TX), Jenniffer A. Gonzalez-Colon (PR), Raul M. Grijalva (AZ), Alcee L. Hastings (FL), Jahana Hayes (CT), Denny Heck (WA), Ann McLane Kuster (NH), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), John B. Larson (CT), Stephen F. Lynch (MA), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY), James P. McGovern (MA), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL), Katie Porter (CA), David E. Price (NC), Terri A. Sewell (AL), Adam Smith (WA), Darren Soto (FL), Abigail D. Spanberger (VA), Bennie G. Thompson (MS), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL).

The full text of the bill can be found here.

Virginia’s statewide sexual and domestic violence hotline is free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day the entire year. Survivors can call: 1.800.838.8238. Or they can text 804.793.9999 or chat online at

The 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). 

Survivors who are unable to speak safely, can log onto or text LOVEIS to 22522.


Wexton has a long history of working in domestic violence prevention. As an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Virginia, Wexton prosecuted domestic violence cases, holding abusers accountable and linking survivors to the resources and support they needed to end the cycle of violence. During her time as a private attorney, Wexton helped survivors navigate the court system to obtain protective orders against their abusers -- working closely with local service providers to also find safe shelter for survivors. In the state Senate, Wexton worked with Republicans and Democrats to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and passed legislation to get resources directly to victims at the courthouse when they receive a protective order. Wexton has also served as a court-appointed guardian ad litem where she represented children who were victims of abuse and neglect.