Leahy, Crapo To Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Reauthorize Landmark Violence Against Women Act
Historic Law, Nearly Two-Decades Later, Remains Critical Tool In Combating Domestic Violence
WASHINGTON (Monday, Nov. 28, 2011) – Bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will be introduced later this week by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Leahy announced in remarks delivered on the Senate floor Monday evening. The law is at the center of the federal government’s efforts to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
“The resources and training provided by VAWA have changed attitudes toward these reprehensible crimes, improved the response of law enforcement and the justice system, and provided essential services for victims struggling to rebuild their lives,” said Leahy. “It is a law that has saved countless lives, and it is an example of what we can accomplish when we work together.”
Leahy, Crapo and others have been working for months to craft legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has helped bolster resources for state and local governments and law enforcement to help combat domestic violence. The law has also helped victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking get back on their feet.
“The Violence Against Women Act has been successful because it has consistently had strong bipartisan support for nearly two decades,” Leahy said. “I am honored to work now with Senator Crapo to build on that foundation. I hope that Senators from both parties will join us to quickly pass this critical reauthorization, which will provide safety and security for victims across America.”
The Violence Against Women Act was first signed into law in 1994, and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. The law’s current authorization expired in September. Programs supported by the Violence Against Women Act have provided victims with critical services such as transitional housing, legal assistance, and supervised visitation services. The Violence Against Women Act has also encouraged communities to coordinate their responses to domestic and sexual violence by bringing together victim advocates, law enforcement, the courts, health care professionals and leaders within faith communities.
The reauthorization legislation that Leahy and Crapo will introduce later this week will improve effective, existing programs to address evolving needs in the fight against domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The proposed legislation will provide tools to prevent domestic violence homicides by supporting training to those law enforcement officers, victim service providers and court personnel who are working on the front lines to eliminate domestic violence. Importantly, the legislation promotes accountability to ensure that federal funds are used for their intended purposes, and consolidates programs and reduces authorization levels to address fiscal concerns while focusing on the programs that have been the most successful.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, has held a number of hearings in recent years about the importance of the law, particularly in difficult economic times.
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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The Upcoming Introduction Of The
“Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act Of 2011”
November 28, 2011
I am pleased that on Wednesday, Senator Crapo and I will introduce the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011. For almost 18 years, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been the centerpiece of the Federal Government’s commitment to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and I am honored to help lead the effort to see it reauthorized.
Since its passage in 1994, no other piece of legislation has done more to stop domestic and sexual violence in our communities. The resources and training provided by VAWA have changed attitudes toward these reprehensible crimes, improved the response of law enforcement and the justice system, and provided essential services for victims struggling to rebuild their lives. It is a law that has saved countless lives, and it is an example of what we can accomplish when we work together.
As a prosecutor in Vermont, I saw firsthand the destruction caused by domestic and sexual violence. Those were the days before VAWA, when too often people dismissed these serious crimes with a joke, and there were few if any services for victims. We have come a long way since then, but there is much more we must do.
Over the last few years, the Judiciary Committee has held several hearings on VAWA in anticipation of this reauthorization. We have heard from people from all around the country, and they have told us the same thing I hear from service providers, experts, and law enforcement officers in Vermont: While we have made great strides in reducing domestic violence and sexual assault, these difficult problems remain, and there is more work to be done.
The victim services funded by VAWA play a particularly critical role in these difficult economic times. The economic pressures of a lost job or home can add stress to an already abusive relationship and can make it even harder for victims to rebuild their lives. At the same time, state budget cuts are resulting in fewer available services. Just this summer, Topeka, Kansas, took the drastic step of decriminalizing domestic violence because the city did not have the funds needed to prosecute these cases. We can and must do better than that. Budgets are tight, but it is unacceptable to turn our backs on these victims. For many, the programs funded through the Violence Against Women Act are nothing short of a life line.
The reauthorization bill that Senator Crapo and I will introduce on Wednesday will reflect Congress’s ongoing commitment to end domestic and sexual violence. It seeks to expand the law’s focus on sexual assault, to ensure access to services for all victims of domestic and sexual violence, and to address the crisis of domestic and sexual violence in tribal communities, among other important steps. It also responds to these difficult economic times by consolidating programs, reducing authorization levels, and adding accountability measures to ensure that Federal funds are used efficiently and effectively.
The Violence Against Women Act has been successful because it has consistently had strong bipartisan support for nearly two decades. I am honored to work now with Senator Crapo to build on that foundation. I hope that Senators from both parties will join us to quickly pass this critical reauthorization, which will provide safety and security for victims across America.