The Senate today approved legislation that protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and includes key components of U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's, D-Wis., bill aimed at ending the abuse of older Americans.
The Senate approved the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) (S. 1925), of which Kohl is a cosponsor. VAWA was originally enacted in 1994 in response to the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence, and the significant impact of such violence on the lives of its victims. It has been reauthorized twice -- in 2000 and 2005 -- with unanimous Senate approval, and the most recent extension expired in 2011.
"The programs VAWA supports have gone a long way to help stop batterers in their tracks and provide victims with the support they need to recover and rebuild their lives," Kohl said. "This reauthorizing legislation builds upon proven prevention and support strategies and includes new provisions to address the changing and still unmet needs of victims."
Last year, the U.S. Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) awarded 16 grants authorized under VAWA in Wisconsin totaling $7.5 million.
Kohl also said that he was pleased that key provisions from his End Abuse Later in Life Act (EALLA) (S. 464) were included within the legislation.
"Unfortunately, physical, mental and financial abuse of our nation's seniors is all too common," Kohl said. "These provisions will help ensure that older Americans who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, exploitation and neglect are protected."
Kohl, who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced EALLA last March in conjunction with a Committee on Aging hearing on the abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of older Americans. The bipartisan bill was co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Robert Casey, D-Penn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine.
Kohl's provisions included in the bill would create a grant program administered by the Department of Justice. The bill requires that the grants be used to:
· provide training programs to assist law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, agencies of States or units of local government, population-specific organizations, victims service providers, victim advocates, and relevant officers in Federal, Tribal, State, Territorial, and local courts in recognizing and addressing instances of abuse in later life, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, exploitation, and neglect;
· provide or enhance services for victims of such abuse in later life;
· establish or support multidisciplinary collaborative community responses to victims of such abuse in later life;
· and, conduct cross-training for law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, agencies of States or units of local government, attorneys, health care providers, population-specific organizations, faith-based advocates, victims service providers, and courts to better serve victims of such abuse in later life.
The grants may also be used to:
· provide training programs to assist attorneys, health care providers, faith-based leaders, or other community-based organizations in recognizing and addressing instances of such abuse in later life;
· or, conduct outreach activities and public awareness campaigns to ensure that victims of such abuse in later life receive appropriate assistance.