The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved legislation that protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and includes key components of U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's, D-Wis., legislation aimed at ending the abuse of older Americans.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) (S. 1925), of which Kohl is a cosponsor. The bill would extend expiring provisions that enhance judicial and law enforcement tools to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and provisions that improve services to victims of those crimes. VAWA has contributed to a decline in domestic violence in the 18 years since it was initially passed in 1994.
"For nearly two decades, the Violence Against Women Act has provided help and support to the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault," Kohl said. "In Wisconsin, law enforcement, domestic violence shelters, victim advocates, health care providers, and faith-based advocates work together to identify and stop instances of domestic violence and sexual assault, and help victims get back on their feet. Their work has proven effective in stopping abusers and providing victims with support. Reauthorizing VAWA will give those groups the tools they need to continue working to eliminate sexual and domestic violence."
Kohl also said that he was pleased that key provisions from his End Abuse Later in Life Act (EALLA) (S. 464) was included within the legislation by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
"Unfortunately, physical, mental and financial abuse of our nation's seniors is all too common," Kohl said. "My legislation which will ensure that older Americans who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, exploitation and neglect are protected."
Kohl, who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced EALLA last March in conjunction with a Committee on Aging hearing on the abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of older Americans. The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Robert Casey, D-Penn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Kohl's provisions approved by the Judiciary Committee today would create a grant program administered by the Department of Justice. The bill requires that the grants be used to:
· provide training programs to assist law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, agencies of States or units of local government, population-specific organizations, victims service providers, victim advocates, and relevant officers in Federal, Tribal, State, Territorial, and local courts in recognizing and addressing instances of abuse in later life, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, exploitation, and neglect;
· provide or enhance services for victims of such abuse in later life;
· establish or support multidisciplinary collaborative community responses to victims of such abuse in later life;
· and conduct cross-training for law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, agencies of States or units of local government, attorneys, health care providers, population-specific organizations, faith-based advocates, victims service providers, and courts to better serve victims of such abuse in later life.
The grants may also be used to:
· provide training programs to assist attorneys, health care providers, faith-based leaders, or other community-based organizations in recognizing and addressing instances of such abuse in later life;
· or conduct outreach activities and public awareness campaigns to ensure that victims of such abuse in later life receive appropriate assistance.