U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Dean of the Senate women, along with Senate colleagues today announced that they have reintroduced the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act Tuesday and called for the Senate to take up the measure without delay. The bill was introduced Tuesday, the first day Senate legislation could be introduced in the 113th Congress. As Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, along with the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Mikulski puts funds in the federal checkbook to support the Department of Justice's Office of Violence Against Women and programs authorized through VAWA, which she helped pass into law.
The bill, which reauthorizes the landmark Violence Against Women Act law that was enacted more than 20 years ago, strengthens and improves existing programs that assist victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The measure closely mirrors the bipartisan legislation approved by the Senate last year, which House Republican leadership failed to bring to a vote. The legislation is coauthored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
"This bill meets a compelling human need. It helps families, it helps police officers and it helps our communities. We need to empower victims and help prevent domestic violence and violence against women, whether it's a stranger who perpetrates danger and despicable acts, or in their own home," Senator Mikulski said. "Ever since 1994, we have reauthorized this legislation, looking at new needs, new technologies and new creative ways of responding to these needs for prevention, intervention and prosecution. We must pass this legislation that's been refreshed and reformed, and brings new ideas and new approaches."
"This life-saving legislation should be a top priority of the new 113th Congress," Senator Leahy said of the bill, which won the support of 68 Senators include 15 Republicans and all the women Senators last year. "It is our hope that the Senate will act quickly to pass this strong, bipartisan bill to help all victims of domestic and sexual violence."
"The Violence Against Women Act has helped countless victims of domestic and relationship violence for nearly twenty years," Senator Crapo said. "The path to reauthorization in the 113th Congress begins with reintroduction, and I look forward to working with Senator Leahy and my colleagues on compromise language that can garner the necessary support in both the Senate and House to pass this critical legislation."
The legislation seeks to protect all victims including those victims who are students, racial minorities, tribal members, immigrants and members of the LGBT community. The bill includes almost all of last year's bipartisan measure, including campus safety provisions and important all-state minimum funding formulas for key grant programs. Added to this year's measure is the SAFER Act, a bill also approved by the Senate last year that provides for audits of untested rape kits. The improved version now also provides law enforcement the tools they need to help reduce the backlog of rape kits throughout the country.
As a cosponsor of the VAWA Reauthorization Act, Chairwoman Mikulski has continued to fight against domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, crimes of epidemic proportions that are exacting terrible costs on individual lives and our communities. Twenty-five percent of U.S. women report that they have been physically assaulted by an intimate partner during their lifetimes, 1 in 6 have been the victims of attempted or completed rape, and the cost of domestic violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year.
The Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized in 2000 and again in 2005, each time with bipartisan support. The law expired in September 2011. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act will provide a five year authorization for VAWA programs, and reduce authorized funding levels by more than $135 million, or 17 percent, from the law's 2005 authorization.