Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined President Obama at The Department of the Interior for the signing of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S.47) into law. The bipartisan law renews and expands the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which had expired in September 2011.
Cantwell championed the key provisions of the reauthorization that strengthened protections for victims of domestic violence in Tribal communities. An estimated 40
percent of Native women experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Some 80 percent of perpetrators of these crimes are non-Indian and are unlikely to face prosecution by federal or Tribal governments under current law.
"I was honored to join President Obama today as he signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act into law," said Cantwell. "This day was a long-time coming -- but it will mean a major step forward to better protect all victims of domestic violence. Perpetrators of domestic violence on Tribal reservations can no longer hide behind legal gaps and loopholes to escape justice. I appreciate the bipartisan leadership on this bill and know millions of women across America will now get the enhanced
protection they deserve."
The reauthorization passed the Senate on February 12, 2013 by a vote of 78-22. The House approved the bill by a vote of 286-138 on February 28, 2013, after rejecting an alternate version without protections for Tribal women and millions of others.
The reauthorization includes critical improvements to extend protection to 30 million individuals regardless of sexual orientation or immigration status. The law extends enhanced domestic violence protections to women in Tribal communities, who suffer
disproportionately from domestic violence and face complex jurisdictional loopholes to prosecute offenders.
The bill signed today also reauthorized programs funded under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act through 2017, which enables law enforcement to better investigate human trafficking crimes. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act expired in 2011.
At a press conference last month Cantwell praised the Senate's passage of VAWA and
urged the House to take up the legislation with Tribal and other key provisions intact. Cantwell also spoke from the Senate floor during the fight to reauthorize VAWA on February 11, 2013 and encouraged her colleagues to reject an amendment that would have removed the Tribal jurisdiction provisions and stripped critical protections for Tribal women. The amendment was defeated by a vote of 31-59.
Prior to that speech, Cantwell also called for the rejection of an amendment that would have reduced the crime of domestic violence by Non-Indians against Indian women from a felony to a misdemeanor-level punishment, regardless of the circumstances or severity of the crime. The amendment was later withdrawn. Cantwell is an original co-sponsor of the reauthorization bill introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on January 22, 2013.
Cantwell has been a consistent champion for the reauthorization of VAWA. In December
2012, she joined six of her female Democratic Senate colleagues to call for House passage of VAWA before Congress adjourned for the year. In April 2012, she joined Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) at the King County Sheriff's office to highlight the benefits of the bill to local law enforcement.
Since the first VAWA bill passed in 1994, domestic violence has decreased by 53 percent. VAWA was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 with overwhelming bipartisan support, but for the first time in VAWA's 17-year history, the bill was allowed to expire last Congress. Full reauthorization is needed to ensure that law enforcement agencies receive the resources they need to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.