Today, Congressman Andrews celebrates the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The original VAWA, passed in 1994, combats violent crimes against women by providing grants for victim services, assistance in finding safe housing, and economic security. On Friday, the President signed into law a bill that expands these protections to victims of all backgrounds, regardless of immigration status or sexual orientation.
The law, co-sponsored by Congressman Andrews, provides a variety of grants to help fund the National Domestic Violence Hotline, assistance centers, and educational programs that aim to combat violence against women. It also provides grants to housing agencies and nonprofits that supply transitional or rental housing to families affected by domestic violence. The bill also extends protections into the workplace, ensuring that an employer cannot take action against an employee as a result of their decision to seek care or justice as a victim. This may include allowing employees a leave of absence to appear in court, or providing them with unemployment insurance in the event that they lose their job as a result of an experience with domestic violence. Additionally, it prohibits health insurance providers from denying or restricting insurance coverage to individuals as a result of their status as a victim of abuse.
The new law provides additional funding for police training to assist victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. VAWA encourages research to determine better ways to protect victims and prevent crime, and provides grants to establish, maintain or expand rape crisis centers throughout the United States. The law also expands upon existing services by: improving educational programs and services dedicated to young victims; revising eligibility requirements for safe housing during a transition out of an abusive home, and; establishing of a national resource center on workplace response. Moreover, VAWA includes the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act of 2013 (SAFER Act), which provides grants to state and local governments to conduct audits and to ensure that the collection and processing of DNA evidence is carried out in a timely manner.
"This is a long-overdue victory for good sense," Congressman Andrews said. "This bill makes it easier for any victim, regardless of their background, to obtain the services they need and deserve."
The VAWA extends protections and services beyond just women to include immigrants, Native American women, those with disabilities, the elderly and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Now men, women and children can seek the same assistance as their peers as they cope with the harmful effects of abuse. While this is a step in the right direction, Congressman Andrews is committed to working with his colleagues to help prevent these acts of violence and ensure that violators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.