Last Thursday, the United States Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act, also known as VAWA, by an overwhelming 68-31 margin. I was proud to be a leading voice in support of this bill, but now the time has come to urge House leadership to take up the bill and pass it as soon as possible.
As Connecticut's attorney general, I saw firsthand how practically important and meaningful this law is to the thousands of victims of violence throughout the state. It enables law enforcement agencies to protect victims of domestic violence, and victim advocates to expand their outreach to help those in need.
In fact, the Violence Against Women Act provides resources to protect and help more than 54,000 domestic violence victims in Connecticut last year alone -- a truly staggering number. Last Friday, I met with three incredibly courageous women -- victims of domestic violence -- who understand the importance of safe houses and support organizations that receive funding from VAWA. One of them, Lisa Fine, described the domestic abuse programs as "anchors during my storm". To discontinue funding is unacceptable. Despite nearly $5 million in Fiscal Year 2011 from the Violence Against Women Act, domestic violence programs in Connecticut still report a shortage of staff and resources.
The epidemic of domestic violence is spreading in new forms. Domestic violence and sexual assault have reached a new frontier in the digital age, as cyber harassment, cyber stalking, assault, and impersonation permeate the internet. Cyber assault is an insidious fact of life. To combat this growing threat, I introduced the Internet Abuse Act, which enhances current law and expands the ability of law enforcement to prosecute criminals who use the internet to intimidate, threaten, harass, and incite acts of violence against women and children. VAWA includes provisions of the Internet Abuse Act. It will strengthen our ability to respond to those who use the internet as a platform for assault.
We cannot abandon the most vulnerable populations. Elders continue to be victims of domestic violence and will be specifically protected from abuse by provisions in VAWA that I drafted with my colleague, Senator Herb Kohl. The LGBT community also continues to experience domestic violence, but many victims are turned away from shelters. I support measures in VAWA that ensure that all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can access the services they need.
The people of Connecticut understand the importance of this legislation, and they have made their voices loud and clear. Over the past few months, I have received over 1,000 letters and phone calls from constituents in support of VAWA. Yesterday, I was proud to join men and women, state officials, and activists from Connecticut at the Unite Women CT rally at the State Capitol, to voice our strong support for women's rights and the Violence Against Women Act. We all came together to take a stand against the extreme right's war on women, and we will not stand silent.
The fight against domestic violence and sexual assault is not partisan. Last Thursday, 68 senators from both parties voted in favor of VAWA, and over 60 senators from each side of the aisle joined as cosponsors -- highly unusual for any piece of legislation. I urge House leadership to pass this bill without delay. The time is now to lend your voice in support of VAWA, and the thousands of victims who desperately need our help. I will not give up the fight to end domestic violence, and I thank you for your support.