U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) continued her call for swift passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) during remarks today at the 18th Statewide Conference on Domestic and Sexual Violence and Stalking in Manchester. The Act, which provides access to critical services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, has already expired and must be reauthorized before money for local programs runs out.
"The Violence Against Women Act must continue to be updated to be sure we are able to meet the needs of the most vulnerable victims of domestic violence," Shaheen said. "This is an evolving demographic that now includes not just college students, but also immigrants and victims of human trafficking. I had a chance to visit the Bridges crisis center in Nashua, which employs a full-time advocate to work with immigrants and ethnic minorities. VAWA funding makes that position possible, and we must pass the reauthorization to ensure it is not eliminated. "
The Senate passed VAWA on April 26 by a bipartisan vote of 68-31. The House passed a version that stripped out crucial aspects that were in the Senate bill: protections for victims in same-sex relationships, for immigrant victims and for women on tribal lands . The House bill also weakens protections for students on college campuses. Right now, the two versions of the bill must be reconciled before a final version can be sent to the President for signature into law. Shaheen has urged the House to pass the bipartisan Senate version.
Despite the advocacy work being done in New Hampshire, nearly one in four women in New Hampshire has been sexually assaulted, at least a third of New Hampshire women have been the victim of a physical assault by an intimate partner and more than half of all women in the state have experienced sexual or physical assault over the course of their lifetime, according to the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. According to the Department of Justice, twenty-five percent of college women will be the victim of rape by the time they complete a four-year program.
The Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994 and was reauthorized with broad bipartisan support in 2000 and 2005. More than 200 national organizations and 500 state and local organizations have expressed their support for the bill, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Attorneys General, the National District Attorneys' Association, the National Sheriffs' Association and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.
Today's conference, the 18th Statewide Conference on Domestic and Sexual Violence and Stalking, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office and the New Hampshire Governor's Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Shaheen also spoke recently about the need to extend the Violence Against Women Act at the Strafford County Family Justice Center in Rochester and the Bridges Domestic and Sexual Violence Support center in Nashua.