U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) yesterday hosted a roundtable discussion with local leaders, victim advocates and shelter providers to gather input on congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the nation's primary federal statute aimed at domestic violence. The roundtable was held at Guardian Angel Community Services in Joliet where Biggert joined representatives from Crisis Center for South Suburbia in Tinley Park, Family Shelter Service in Downers Grove and Mutual Ground in Aurora. Biggert, a key cosponsor of the last VAWA reauthorization in 2005, announced plans to work with her colleagues in the House on legislation to provide states, communities and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to serve victims of violence and prosecute offenders.
"Our community advocates work around the clock to help victims of violence escape life-threatening situations, and I am extremely grateful for their input as we work to reauthorize and improve our nation's domestic violence laws. The startling number of people these organizations serve -- on a limited budget -- is a valuable reminder that we cannot let VAWA programs languish," said Biggert, noting that federal authorization of VAWA expired in September 2011.
Biggert cited a recent statistic from the Centers for Disease Control that 24 people are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner each minute in the United States. Here in Illinois, the report revealed that roughly 1.8 million women were victims of rape in 2010. Participants at the roundtable discussed how the current economic downturn can further aggravate volatile situations.
"Throughout the years, Rep. Biggert has been a genuinely caring and passionate advocate for victims of domestic violence," said Edward Vega, Executive Director for Crisis Center for South Suburbia. "Her support of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is very much appreciated and will benefit thousands upon thousands of families in need."
"We are grateful for Representative Biggert's dedication to issues of violence against women and children and her willingness to seek our input on the proposed legislation," said Jennifer Gabrenya, Director of Programs at Family Shelter Service. "VAWA funding is crucial to our agency's ability to provide underserved populations with essential services that promote safety and healing."
"The discussion provided valuable insight into where VAWA dollars are going and how existing programs help families in our area. I'll work with my colleagues in Washington to ensure we're providing the resources needed for rape prevention and education, domestic violence intervention, and transitional housing," said Biggert.
"We were happy to host the roundtable discussion facilitated by Congresswoman Judy Biggert on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act at Guardian Angel Community Services," said Ines Kutlesa, CEO of Guardian Angel Community Services. "It was a pleasure exchanging ideas with all the guests who joined us. Services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are essential to our community, as are these discussions and congressional support that make it possible to serve those in need. We thank Congresswoman Judy Biggert for coming to Guardian Angel Community Services to talk about these vital services."
Biggert said suggestions from local advocates will be used in drafting House legislation to reauthorize VAWA or amendments to improve on Senate legislation that is currently pending.