Today, Congressman Tim Walz voted to reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and send it to the President to be signed into law. Earlier this month, Walz urged his colleagues to bring forward a strong VAWA reauthorization.
Passed 19 years ago, in large part due to the grassroots efforts of the late Sheila Wellstone, this landmark legislation focused the resources, time, and energy of federal, state, and local law enforcement on the task of preventing and stopping domestic abuse, while providing victims of violence with critical services and assistance.
"The Violence Against Women Act brings domestic abuse out of the shadows and makes it unequivocally clear that no woman should ever be forced to suffer in silence in the face of violence," said Walz. "I'm pleased that House leadership did the right thing and brought forward a strong reauthorization of VAWA that will work to reach all victims of domestic violence."
Last Congress, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA, with key provisions strengthening the law, by a vote of 68 to 31. However, House leadership refused to bring the bipartisan Senate bill to the floor and, over 500 days ago, VAWA was allowed to expire.
VAWA has improved the criminal justice system's ability to keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable. 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.
VAWA has also successfully encouraged communities and law enforcement agencies to coordinate their responses to violence against women and provide effective, long-term support for victims.
While we've made progress over the years, there is still much work to do. One in four women has been the victim of severe physical domestic violence and one in five has been raped in their lifetime. This is unacceptable. We must continue to promote policies that work to put an end to domestic violence.