Today, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) held a news conference with The Center For Women and Families and Catholic Charities of Louisville to call on House Republican Leadership to bring the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to the Floor for a vote and passage. It has been more than 500 days since House Republicans allowed the law to expire.
Appearing at The Center for Women and Families Wednesday morning, Rep. Yarmuth said that in the wake of Senate passage of legislation reauthorizing VAWA, a House vote should be a top priority.
"Since Congress first enacted the law in 1994, cases of rape and sexual assault across the country have fallen dramatically, and hundreds of thousands of victims have been able to find the essential support systems they need and the justice they deserve," Yarmuth said. "Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault often face a lot of uncertainties in their lives, but whether their Members of Congress will stand up for their safety should not be one of them.
"It is long past time for Congress to reauthorize this law," Yarmuth said.
Last year, Louisville received more than $700,000 in VAWA funding for programs that provide vital support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Across the state, 45 organizations and agencies benefitted from grant funding through the law.
"The funding we receive from the Violence Against Women Act directly finances crucial positions at The Center, including staff who help survivors navigate obtaining protective orders and court procedures, and those working closely with entire families affected by intimate partner violence and sexual assault," said Marta Miranda, President and CEO of The Center for Women and Families. "Losing this key funding would create a crater in our ability to effectively advocate for some of our most vulnerable community members -- those directly affected by abuse and assault."
Catholic Charities received nearly $100,000 in grant funding through VAWA in 2012. The investment supports services for immigrants as well as the agency's Human Trafficking Project.
"Sex trafficking and labor trafficking crimes are being committed every day in our communities and often involve extremely high levels of sexual violence, forced drugging, coercion, and other methods of control that maintain the victim's vulnerability," said Marissa Castellanos, Human Trafficking Program Manager at Catholic Charities. "Children in the United States are being sold into commercial sex markets at the average age of 12-14 years old, forced into prostitution, pornography, or stripping. These children, when they aren't identified and rescued, become adult victims and continue to be exploited, often at a considerable profit for traffickers. VAWA provides the framework for intervention and services these survivors need to ensure they are free from further exploitation and receive trauma-informed care."
On February 12, the Senate passed strong, comprehensive legislation to reauthorize VAWA by a bipartisan vote of 78 to 22. The Senate bill significantly strengthens the ability of the federal government, states, law enforcement, and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
The legislation also includes provisions to ensure that all victims of domestic violence receive the protection and support they need. It provides new protections for tribal members, immigrants, and members of the LGBT community.
On January 22, Congressman Yarmuth and other House Democrats introduced H.R. 11, a VAWA Reauthorization identical to the Senate bill. The House legislation has 194 Democratic cosponsors.