The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), signed into law today by President Barack Obama, will strengthen programs and policies meant to prevent domestic and sexual violence and protect victims, ensuring continued services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the bill's lead Senate authors, both attended a White House signing ceremony Thursday, and called the bill's long overdue enactment a bright spot in a divided Congress.
Leahy, who as Senate President Pro Tem is a member of Senate leadership, insisted that the chamber act quickly to reauthorize the measure this year.
"We made the Violence Against Women Act our top priority this Congress, and today, President Obama signed this vital legislation into law. At a time when we face gridlock and stonewalling on even the most compelling issues, I am glad to see that we acted in a bipartisan manner to help victims of violence in Vermont and across the country," said Leahy. "Today, victims of violence, members of law enforcement and those committed to working against domestic and sexual violence celebrate the signing of this important law, and I applaud them for their work and dedication to seeing that the Violence Against Women Act be reauthorized this year."
"VAWA is being signed because of the many advocates and victims of crime in Idaho and across the country who have assisted us in passing this critical legislation," Crapo said. "Sadly, Idaho has already seen four deaths this year linked to domestic violence, but national statistics show VAWA is working to reduce domestic crimes by a third. Those four lives in Idaho further prove the importance of having this act in place.
"Violence against women and girls violates what we believe in and is not consistent with our values of a compassionate community where violence is never tolerated," said Kelly Miller, Executive Director, Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence. "We are so grateful to Senator Crapo for his national leadership in the passage of a bipartisan and inclusive Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act." Miller was in Washington, D.C. to attend the signing ceremony.
The law signed by the President today renews VAWA's charter for another five years, and includes new and vital protections for all victims of domestic violence. The law also seeks to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the country, provides needed assistance to law enforcement in prosecuting sexual assault crimes, and assists law enforcement in investigating human trafficking crimes by also reauthorizing for four years the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which expired in September 2011.
"As a husband, father, and grandfather, and as a former prosecutor who saw the aftermath of this type of violence firsthand, I am honored to have worked to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act," said Leahy. "I applaud the hard work of Senator Crapo and many others, and I thank President Obama for signing our bill into law today."
"Chairman Leahy deserves the gratitude of all Americans for his leadership on this legislation," Crapo added. "If just one life is saved because of VAWA, then our work has been worth it. We must continue to advocate for the victims and agencies that assist those hurt by domestic and sexual abuse. While the signing of VAWA will help save countless lives, we need to ensure we continue to have the most up-to-date protections to stop this violence in place."