Today, Congressman Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) voted in favor of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a bipartisan piece of legislation that significantly strengthens the ability of the federal government, states, and law enforcement to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
The House passed the Senate's version of VAWA by a vote of 286-138, extending the law's crucial protections to LGBT, Native American, and immigrant victims. It also provides for more rape kits as well as a national registry of forensic evidence from sexual assault cases, strengthening criminal anti-trafficking statutes, providing for temporary housing for victims, and addressing domestic violence on American college campuses. The bill will be sent to the President's desk for his signature.
"I am proud to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act," said Congressman Vela. "This historic legislation has provided important protections for women and given survivors of violence resources to help them heal since it was first enacted nearly 20 years ago. I will continue to support bipartisan bills like these that directly benefit communities across the country and South Texas."
Originally signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 and reauthorized by bipartisan majorities in 2000 and 2005, VAWA has improved the criminal justice system's ability to keep victims of domestic violence safe and hold perpetrators accountable. As a result of this historic legislation, every state has strengthened criminal rape statutes and enacted laws making stalking a crime. Since becoming law, the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped by more than 50 percent.
Congressman Vela recently joined the Victims' Rights Caucus, a Congressional organization that advocates for crime victims. During its six-year existence, the Caucus has taken the lead in supporting programs that provide critical support for victim services throughout the nation, including those created by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Caucus was also instrumental in the enactment of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, and the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011.