U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voiced his strong support for the bipartisan legislation introduced Wednesday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which has enhanced law enforcement's ability to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women since its original passage in 1994.
"For nearly 18 years, the Violence Against Women Act has shined a national spotlight on a problem that was once considered a private matter, empowering women and men alike to take a stand against abuse and increase the safety of countless women across America," Senator Coons said. "By reauthorizing this legislation, we will continue the fight first championed by Joe Biden, while enhancing initiatives that confront the evolving needs of the push to root-out domestic violence. Without Congressional action, many of VAWA's programs will expire this year. As a matter of human rights, we simply cannot allow that to happen."
VAWA was first signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, and has since been reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. The law's current authorization, however, expired in September. Programs supported by VAWA have provided victims with critical services such as transitional housing, legal assistance, and supervised visitation services. VAWA 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.
"As state and local budgets struggle to find the resources needed to fund enforcement of domestic violence laws, as well as for aid, relocation and support for victims, VAWA provides an important lifeline to some of our most vulnerable citizens," Senator Coons said. "We cannot afford to let these programs lapse. I will continue to advocate for reauthorization of this legislation and encourage my Senate colleagues to swiftly pass this bill."
The legislation introduced Wednesday would improve 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 also 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 legislation was sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).