With an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 78-22, the Senate yesterday advanced the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is urging the House to consider the same.
"House leaders let this landmark legislation expire more than a year ago and have refused to schedule a vote on a nearly identical bill cosponsored by 194 House members." Rep. Castor said. "Domestic violence prevention initiatives and VAWA have saved lives. Further delays by the Republican-controlled Congress are unwarranted."
Passed 19 years ago with bipartisan support, the purpose of VAWA was to focus the resources, time and energy of federal, state and local law enforcement on the task of preventing and stopping domestic abuse, while providing victims with critical services and assistance.
"VAWA has successfully encouraged communities across America, including here in Tampa Bay, and law enforcement agencies to coordinate their responses to violence against women and provide effective, long-term support for victims," continued Rep. Castor. "Failure to support community initiatives would deprive women, children, and families of vital protection against abuse and take away essential tools that law enforcement rely on to combat violence."
Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA, with key provisions strengthening the law, by a vote of 68 to 31. However, the Republican leadership in the House refused to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor, and VAWA failed to secure reauthorization in the last Congress.
Last month, House and Senate members reintroduced the reauthorization of VAWA to extend and strengthen the legislation's existing provisions, and expand protections to LGBT Americans, immigrants, and Native Americans.
"VAWA has improved the criminal justice system's ability to keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable," stated Rep. Castor. "Based on this legislation, every state has enacted laws to make stalking a crime and strengthened criminal rape statutes."
Since VAWA became law, the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped more than 50 percent -- and reporting of domestic violence has increased as much as 51 percent. But more needs to be done, as indicated by the following statistics from the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence:
· 1 in 4 U.S. women are victims of domestic violence
· 3 U.S. women are murdered by their partners every day
· 1 in 6 U.S. women have survived sexual assault or attempted sexual assault
· 1.3 million U.S. women reported being raped or sexually assaulted in 2009
· 15 million U.S. children are exposed to domestic violence each year