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New Legislation Seeks to Improve Assistance to Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

New Legislation Seeks to Improve Assistance to Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims

Reps. Wasserman Schultz, Poe Introduce H.R. 3401 to Improve Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Today, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Congressman Ted Poe will announce bipartisan legislation which will make urgently needed corrections and improvements to the Violence Against Women Act. The Improving Assistance to Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Act of 2009 (H.R. 3401) will refocus VAWA to help address the full range of critical needs that today's domestic violence victims face.

"Since VAWA first passed in 1994, the number of women killed by their intimate partners has decreased by 24 percent" said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "With these important changes we will ensure that this law continues to be a vital resource for prosecutors, social workers, and all of those committed to ending the scourge of domestic violence."

"I am pleased to work with my friend and colleague, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in introducing this legislation," said Rep. Poe. "I believe that it shows again that victims' issues are people issues, not partisan issues. Approximately 2.3 million people each year in the United States are raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend. Women are 90 - 95 percent more likely to suffer domestic violence than men. As founder and co-chair of the Victims' Rights Caucus, it is imperative that we not only make these changes to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but that we do so in a timely fashion. We must ensure that women who are victims of violence have access to the vital services they need."

Rep. Wasserman Schultz and Rep. Poe drafted this legislation to amend the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 to improve assistance to domestic and sexual violence victims. Among other important changes, this bill, which was drafted with the aid of victim advocates in the field, will:

Enhance the privacy protections for victims by ensuring that private information, including home addresses are not published on the Internet.
Ensure that more young victims of stalking and dating violence can find youth-oriented services;
Increase the number of sexual assault nurse examiners, who provide expert testimony, proper evidence collection, and accurate documentation of injuries. These sexual assault nurse examiners are often critical to the successful prosecution of offenders;
give sexual assault victims greater peace of mind, by allowing offenders to be tested for HIV and sexually transmitted infection at earlier stages in criminal proceedings;
clarify that nothing in VAWA prohibits grantees from reporting child abuse or neglect, or elder abuse or neglect, in states that don't mandate reporting; and
strengthen protections in existing law for battered immigrant women, whose batterers often escalate the cycle of violence with impunity due to the victim's fear of deportation by authorities if she reports abuse.

"With these vital adjustments to the Violence Against Women Act, Congress will ensure that the law is as effective and strong as it was intended to be and that VAWA will continue to meet the needs of those it seeks to protect as we move forward," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting this important bipartisan initiative."

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