Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) today joined more than 150 of his colleagues in reintroducing a strengthened reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Passed 19 years ago, 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.
"As the father of two young girls and the brother of two sisters, I know that protecting the women in our lives is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue," said Himes. "While I was disappointed that politics got in the way of Congress' ability to reauthorize this important program last session, I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reassert that domestic and sexual abuse have no place in this country."
Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA, with key provisions strengthening the law, by a vote of 68 to 31. However, the Republican leadership in the House refused to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor, and VAWA failed to secure reauthorization in the last Congress. The proposal introduced today is nearly identical to the Senate bill, including expanded protections for LGBT Americans, immigrants, and Native Americans. The legislation already has support from Senators on both sides of the aisle, including key Republican women in the Senate.
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 successfully encouraged communities and law enforcement agencies to coordinate their responses to violence against women and provide effective, long-term support for victims. Failure to enact this bill again would deprive women, children, and families of vital protection against abuse and law enforcement of essential tools to combat violence. The 113th Congress must now act quickly to get the job done.