U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a former Jackson County Prosecutor, rallied support on the Senate floor today for renewing the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law which provides vital protections for women and families.
"Let's make sure that these women have someplace to turn to, their children have someplace to turn to," McCaskill said "Let's reauthorize this act today and make sure that all the women out there have that help and assistance they need at their time of need."
McCaskill served as County Prosecutor for Jackson County during the original passage of the Violence Against Women Act, creating a Domestic Violence Unit in her office, and helping establish a similar unit in the Kansas City Police Department. These changes aided in the prosecution of abusers, and also provided access to resources for victims' advocates to advise, counsel, and protect women and their children.
Recalling her time in the prosecutor's office McCaskill added: "If you were there 35 years ago on the front lines and you knew the progress we made today, you wouldn't be voting 'No' on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act."
The renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, provides resources to state and local governments to prosecute perpetrators of domestic violence and protect victims of domestic violence and their children. With the legislation needing to be renewed, the Senate is debating a reauthorization that would strengthen the original bill by:
Reducing bureaucracy and strengthening accountability measures to ensure that resources provided to states are properly spent
Placing greater emphasis on training for law enforcement response to sexual assaults, which have among the lowest conviction rates for any violent crime
Renewing successful and important programs that have helped law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service providers keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable.
Although the bill has gained strong support from Senators on both sides of the aisle-including strong support from nearly every female Senator-it has faced significant opposition from many Senators, including a significant number that opposed the bill when it was voted out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, where it was first considered. The law, originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, has resulted in a 50 percent overall reduction in incidents of domestic violence nationally. During both previous reauthorizations, it unanimously passed the Senate, and its current reauthorization is supported by all 50 state Attorneys General.