Today, Rep. John Lewis applauded the passage of the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) following the failure of the partisan and discriminatory proposal put forth this week by House Republicans. With House Democrats pushing for a stronger, more comprehensive reauthorization, the Senate's version passed the House by a vote of 286-138, extending the law's crucial protections to LGBT, Native American and immigrant victims, providing for more rape kits as well as a national registry of forensic evidence from sexual assault cases, strengthening criminal anti-trafficking statutes, providing for temporary housing for victims, and addressing domestic violence on American college campuses.
The House adoption of the Senate bill means that the Lewis SMART Teen Dating Bill and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) will also become law. Following a disturbing conversation with Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, the Congressman became the House leader on teen dating violence prevention by drafting the SMART Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Act . The bill was passed by the House on the last day of February,Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month. In addition to sponsoring an annual resolution and congressional briefing in February, the Lewis introduced legislation to focus on the alarming national rise of teen dating violence.
In October of last year, Rep. Lewis sent a letter to House and Senate leaders urging them to pass VAVA and the TVPRA. He was especially concerned about FBI reports that Atlanta had one of the highest rates of child prostitution in the country. The Senate acted by including it within the VAWA legislation. The House developed a more partisan measure that failed. Ultimately, the House decided to pass the Senate version which included more progressive measures.
"This is a victory," said Rep. John Lewis, "for women in this country who live in fear. They can breathe a little easier tonight knowing that federal law will continue to protect and has expanded protections for victims of domestic violence and women who are trafficked worldwide. It took this Congress too long to do what it should have done without hesitation, but I am glad we finally these bills. They that on our watch the federal government will not turn a blind eye to defenseless children and the vulnerable women who are terrorized by violence of this kind.