U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) and U.S. Representative Robert Dold (R-IL-10) were joined by local, state, and national anti-domestic violence advocates to urge House and Senate leaders to reach a bicameral, bipartisan compromise on legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expired in 2011. Although both the House and Senate have passed separate bills to reauthorize VAWA, little progress has been made in resolving differences between the proposals. Biggert and Dold voted against the House bill because it failed to adequately protect all victims of violence, including college students, immigrants, Native Americans and LGBT individuals. The event was held at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.
"Domestic violence can happen to anyone, anywhere and our laws should reflect that," said Biggert, a key co-sponsor of the last VAWA reauthorization in 2005. "We cannot allow VAWA to fall victim to partisan gridlock. House and Senate leaders should act now to resolve their differences and send the President a strong bill that provides life-saving services for victims of abuse, assault and rape."
"I believe it is important that the House work with the Senate to get this vital legislation signed into law," said Dold. "The Violence Against Women Act should be reauthorized in a broad, bipartisan manner and we should ensure that all groups, ethnicities, backgrounds, and age groups are fully protected. I urge my colleagues to put people before politics and progress before partisanship and move this bill forward so that it can be signed into law immediately."
Earlier this month, Biggert authored a letter signed by four of her GOP colleagues, including Dold, urging House leaders to accept Senate-endorsed provisions that would: ensure LGBT individuals have access to victim services; eliminate disincentives for reporting crimes among immigrants; increase transparency and prevention programs on college campuses; and allow tribal court systems to prosecute domestic violence crimes that occur on native lands. On Monday, Speaker Boehner named eight House members to serve on the House-Senate Conference Committee that will negotiate a final bill. To date, the Senate has not yet appointed its own negotiators.
"Passage of a VAWA bill that truly addresses the barriers to reducing domestic violence and sexual assault for all victims is imperative at this time," said Vickie Smith, Executive Director and CEO of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which provided services to 3,550 individuals in Fiscal Year 2012.
Other victim advocates -- who rallied behind these provisions at the press conference -- included: Monica McLaughlin, Senior Public Policy Specialist with the National Network to End Domestic Violence; Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Director of Legal Services at the National Immigrant Justice Center; Heather Imrie, Associate Director of UIC's Campus Advocacy Network; Brian Richardson, Director of Public Affairs, Center on Halsted; Polly Poskin, Sexual Assault Coalition Director with the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Sharmili Majmudar, Executive Director of Rape Victim Advocates; and Edward Vega, Executive Director of Crisis Center for South Suburbia.