Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, legislation that would strengthen the ability of the federal government, the states, law enforcement, and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This reauthorization would also remove barriers to services for LGBT victims, undocumented victims, and Native American women.
"This is about saving lives, keeping people safe, and helping victims," Esty said. "People in our communities of all races, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, and socioeconomic backgrounds have been victims of domestic violence. They cannot wait any longer for us to take action. We must reauthorize and update this critical legislation now."
Esty has been a long-time advocate for reducing domestic violence. When she served as a State Representative in the Connecticut General Assembly, Esty worked to pass legislation to help the victims of domestic violence including the establishment of a GPS monitoring pilot program for domestic violence offenders.
VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act) was originally passed with bipartisan support by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. VAWA was reauthorized by Congress in 2000 and 2005 but expired in 2011 without being renewed by the last Congress.
The VAWA reauthorization would renew important programs that have helped law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service providers keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable including STOP Grants, Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders Program, Transitional Housing Assistance Grants, legal assistance for victims, and youth prevention programs.
Additionally, the VAWA reauthorization includes measures to ensure an increased focus on sexual assault prevention, enforcement, and services, to improve protections for immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence, and to address the crisis of domestic violence against Native American women in tribal communities.
The VAWA reauthorization would also take new steps to reach all victims of domestic violence by expanding the definition of "underserved" to include religion and sexual orientation, by ensuring that grant funds can be used to make services available for all victims regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and by including a civil rights provision that ensures no victim can be denied services based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.
Companion legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and Republican Senator Mike Crapo.