Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) declared his firm and unequivocal support for the Democratic effort to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Passed 19 years ago, this landmark legislation focused the resources, time, and energy of federal, state, and local law enforcement on the task of preventing and stopping domestic abuse, while providing victims of violence with critical services and assistance.
"The Violence Against Women Act represents a firm promise: no woman should ever be forced to feel unsafe or insecure in her own home and no woman should ever suffer in silence in the face of domestic violence," said Congressman Cohen. "VAWA has taken domestic abuse out of the shadows; it has protected millions of women; it has saved lives. We must reauthorize and strengthen this historic measure without further delay."
Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA, with key provisions strengthening the law, by a vote of 68 to 31. However, the Republican leadership in the House refused to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor, and VAWA failed to secure reauthorization in the last Congress.
This week, with the leadership of Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers and Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Democrats reintroduced the reauthorization of VAWA. With the support of more than 150 co-sponsors so far -- including every Democratic woman in the House -- this proposal will extend and strengthen VAWA's existing provisions, and expand protections to LGBT Americans, immigrants, and Native Americans. The legislation already has support from Senators on both sides of the aisle, including key Republican women in the Senate.
"There's no reason to wait and there's no time to waste -- Democrats and Republicans must come together to ensure that America's women are never again forced to live in fear," said Congressman Cohen. "By strengthening VAWA, we uphold our responsibility to protect and defend all Americans. "
VAWA has improved the criminal justice system's ability to keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable. Based on this legislation, every state has enacted laws to make stalking a crime and strengthened criminal rape statutes. Since VAWA became law, the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped more than 50 percent -- and reporting of domestic violence has increased as much as 51 percent.
VAWA has successfully encouraged communities and law enforcement agencies to coordinate their responses to violence against women and provide effective, long-term support for victims. Failure to enact this bill again would deprive women, children, and families of vital protection against abuse and law enforcement of essential tools to combat violence. The 113th Congress must now act quickly to get the job done.