Congressman Gerry Connolly has cosponsored legislation introduced Wednesday to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Passed 19 years ago, the 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. Until 2011, previous versions of the legislation passed Congress with strong bipartisan support.
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 of Representatives refused to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor and, as a result, VAWA failed to secure reauthorization in the last Congress.
"The Violence Against Women Act represents a commitment that 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," Congressman Connolly said. "VAWA has protected millions of women and it has saved lives. I hope the House Republican leadership will not once again prevent us from reauthorizing this important law."
The legislation, which was introduced with the support of more than 150 members of Congress -- including every Democratic woman in the House -- 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.
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 deprive law enforcement of essential tools to combat violence. The 113th Congress must act quickly to get this done," Connolly said.