Today, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) released a statement marking October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and calling on the House of Representatives to pass the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill approved in the Senate earlier this year. The reauthorization would extend critical programs and update the law by including non-discrimination protection for all victims, regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.
"Domestic Violence Month is part of our effort to connect women and children with the help they need to escape violence. Individuals in violent relationships often remain hidden in the shadows, but we know that effective support programs can reach them and save lives," said Senator Lautenberg. "The Violence Against Women Act helps to ensure that communities have support services needed for victims to protect themselves and their families. It's time to put politics aside, pass the bipartisan VAWA reauthorization, and show that our nation will never turn its back on those who are abused."
Senator Lautenberg has a long history of protecting victims of domestic violence. He is the author of the "Domestic Violence Gun Ban," which prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from buying or possessing firearms. Since it was enacted in 1996, the law has succeeded in keeping guns out of the hands of abusers on approximately 200,000 occasions.
The Violence Against Women Act was originally enacted in 1994 and has been reauthorized twice--in 2000 and 2005--with unanimous Senate approval. The most recent extension expired in 2011. The Senate passed a reauthorization bill in April 2012, but the House has refused to consider the bipartisan Senate bill. The law provides federal funding for programs and initiatives designed to help victims, and reauthorization is needed to ensure that local communities and law enforcement agencies get the full resources they need to fight domestic violence.
In New Jersey, more than 74,000 domestic violence offenses were reported by the police in 2010. Since 2006, nearly $30 million in federal funding has been provided to more than 40 domestic violence programs in New Jersey through VAWA.