Last week, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a landmark law passed in 1994 to prevent, reduce, and respond to incidences of domestic violence. Today, as the bill awaits approval in the House, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse held a roundtable meeting with Rhode Island advocates who support the VAWA reauthorization to hear their stories, give them an update on the bill's progress, and urge the House to follow the Senate's lead and vote for quick reauthorization.
Whitehouse is a cosponsor of the VAWA reauthorization, which also includes a provision he wrote to address teen dating violence called the SMART Prevention Act.
"The Violence Against Women Act provides crucial services to survivors of domestic violence and holds batterers accountable," said Whitehouse. "By reauthorizing this law, we will ensure that women and families in Rhode Island and across the country continue to receive these important protections."
Whitehouse was joined at today's roundtable by Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) Executive Director Deb DeBare, the Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund President Ann Burke, Start Strong Director Kate Reilly from the Sojourner House, and other Rhode Islanders working to reduce instances of domestic violence across the state. The meeting was held at the RICADV headquarters in Warwick.
"In the 17 years since Congress authorized VAWA, how we as a society view and prosecute domestic violence has changed dramatically for the better. However, each day in the United States three women are killed at the hands of an abusive partner. A great deal of work remains to be done," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "Reauthorizing this important Act will permit critical services to victims to continue uninterrupted and will allow new, targeted efforts to be developed in the areas where research shows we can have the most impact. I commend Senator Whitehouse for his leadership on this issue."
"We need to advance new thinking on how we teach teens about prevention in schools, and make sure we take advantage of the digital platforms and social media that teens use on an everyday basis," said Kate Reilly. "Senator Whitehouse's SMART Prevention Act will help advocates use innovative approaches to reach young people on these very important issues."
The Violence Against Women Act first passed in 1994. The provisions added by Senator Whitehouse to address teen dating violence would establish a new grant program for youth domestic violence education and support programs to train youth mentors. It is supported by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Futures Without Violence, Jewish Women International, Men Can Stop Rape, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the National Center for Victims of Crime, and the Love is Not Abuse Coalition.
The U.S. Senate last week passed the reauthorization bill with a strong bipartisan vote of 68-31.
Photo Caption: Senator Whitehouse hears from Rhode Island supporters of the Violence Against Women Act. Pictured, from left, are Peg Langhammer, Executive Director of Day One; Mike Martin, Chief Professional Officer at the Katie Brown Educational Project; Claire Spaulding McVicker, Program Director at the Katie Brown Educational Program; Deb DeBare, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Senator Whitehouse; Attorney General Kilmartin; and Ann Burke, President of the Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund.