Women and supporters for the prevention and elimination of domestic and sexual violence were victorious today with the adoption of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 286-138.
"Domestic and sexual violence against women and families demands action and attention," said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. "Law enforcement, our local advocates and nonprofit champions need the tools to prevent abuse and serve victims. So, after months of inaction by House Republicans, I am gratified by the defeat of their version of the bill, which considerably narrowed protections for victims. VAWA is on its way to President Obama's desk."
VAWA originally passed 19 years ago with bipartisan support to focus 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. Based on this legislation, every state has enacted laws to make stalking a crime and strengthened criminal rape statutes.
"In the past year for Hillsborough alone, the Crisis Center responded and worked with 183,000 people -- mostly women -- who were victims and would benefit from the support provided by the Senate's version of the bill," said David Braughton, president of the Crisis Center. "We thank Rep. Castor for her continued support of women and victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence."
VAWA expired in 2011 and last year the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA, with key provisions that strengthened 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. The Senate passed it earlier this month, but the House provided a substitute that rolled back essential protections.
The Senate version of VAWA ensures that all victims -- including college students, Native Americans, immigrants, and the LGBT community -- of domestic and sexual violence receive the protection they need. The Senate passed it Feb. 12 with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 78-22 and was supported by every Democrat, every woman Senator and the majority of Senate Republicans. Rep. Castor then urged the House to take up the bill.
"I salute The Spring of Tampa Bay, CASA of St. Petersburg, the Crisis Center, the Family Justice Center, University of Tampa, USF advocates and others for their input and service to our neighbors. The bill that passed today is responsive to all victims, and has support of law enforcement and service providers around the country," Rep. Castor said.
This morning's vote reauthorizes VAWA through 2018.