U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, and a strong supporter of the Violence Against Women Act, today praised the Senate's passage of a reauthorization measure that strengthens the law by building on new data, best practices and lessons learned to provide law enforcement agencies, court personnel, and victim-service providers with tools to help prevent domestic violence.
"Every single American should be able to count on the law to protect them from domestic violence and sexual assault, regardless of who they are, where they live or whom they love," Senator Coons said. "That means giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate and prosecute these crimes while investing in a community-based approach, like we have in Delaware. In reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, the Senate today took an important step in the ongoing effort to rid domestic abuse from our communities and our nation."
S.1925, of which Senator Coons is a cosponsor, would improve existing programs to address evolving needs in the fight against domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The legislation supports training for those on the front lines of efforts to eliminate domestic violence. It takes the important step of explicitly preventing grant recipients from discriminating against victims who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and modifies the U Visa program to make it easier for law enforcement to gain the cooperation of victims in prosecuting dangerous perpetrators. 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.
"In drafting the Violence Against Women Act nearly 20 years ago, Joe Biden revolutionized the way law enforcement confronts domestic violence," Senator Coons said. "This legislation has proven effective at diminishing the stigma associated with abuse by empowering more individuals to report cases to their local authorities. Law enforcement agencies across this country count on the critical resources provided under the Violence Against Women Act to support their work on behalf of victims and those at risk of becoming victims."
On February 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines, 10-8, to advance the reauthorization out of committee. Senator Coons spoke on the Senate floor about that vote later that day (http://bit.ly/zIYpag). On February 21, he convened on the issue a roundtable in Delaware with representatives of state, county and local law enforcement agencies, advocacy, community and non-profit organizations, family court, and the Delaware Attorney General's office (http://bit.ly/I7Qhw7). On March 13, Senator Coons wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to urge a vote of the full Senate be taken (http://bit.ly/I7QzDf).
"While this bill, sadly, initially faced partisan opposition in the Senate, my colleagues joined together today to rise above party politics and do what is right for the safety of Americans," Senator Coons said. "I encourage my colleagues in the House to move swiftly in passing this legislation, and I will continue to advocate on behalf of law enforcement personnel in Delaware and around the country to ensure they have the necessary tools to keep our neighborhoods free from abuse, fear and violence."
Originally drafted by then-Senator Joe Biden, VAWA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, and has since been reauthorized twice: in 2000 and 2005. The law's current authorization, however, expired in September 2011. 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.