<\body> Stories in America: Congress Reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Congress Reauthorizes Violence Against Women Act

Some good news!
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed by both houses Saturday, authorizing almost $4 billion over the next five years, and now awaits the President's signature. The compromised version of VAWA was approved as part of the Justice Department budget, passing the Senate on Friday and the House on Saturday. The reauthorization broadens efforts to combat violence against women with more focus on prevention strategies, culturally specific services, and enhanced services for victims with disabilities, and it broadens services to include children and teenagers. The 2005 bill authorizes 21 percent more funding than the version passed in 2000.

Since the original 1994 legislation, states have passed more than 660 laws to protect individuals from domestic violence and sexual assault, significantly reducing domestic violence. Incidents of nonfatal domestic violence have dropped 50 percent from 1993 to 2001. Sexual assaults and rapes perpetrated against individuals 12 years old and older have also decreased by 50 percent in that same time period.
A few highlights:
For the first time ever, VAWA contains funding for programs that provide direct services to victims of sexual assault. In the past, federal legislation only addressed rape prevention and education. But the new Sexual Assault Services Act provides for counseling, rape kits, legal assistance and medical services for survivors.

Domestic violence victims are often evicted on account of their abusers' violence, so advocates worked with the real-estate lobby to include provisions that allow victims to break a lease if they're fleeing their abuser. In addition, VAWA prevents landlords from evicting tenants who call police to report abuse. The bill contains language that works for both victims and landlords, says Allison Randall of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. And for the significant number of victims who leave their abusers and find themselves homeless, VAWA expands transitional housing options and ensures victims' confidentiality within the homeless services system.
A few statements:

"I am overjoyed that House and Senate negotiators recognized the critical importance of this proposal for a very vulnerable population. The lives and safety of hundreds of thousands of women and children are at risk. This new law will ensure that HUD rules don't allow the identities and location of victims in domestic violence shelters to be exposed to those who want to assault or kill them."
-Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI)

"The passage of the Violence Against Women Act ensures that communities have the tools they need to intervene in and ultimately prevent violence in our homes. Congress has taken an important step forward in saving lives.”
-Lynn Rosenthal, President of the National Network to End Domestic Violence

"This second renewal of the Violence Against Women Act is proof positive of lawmakers' commitment to protect women in the U.S. While this country has made considerable strides toward combating abuse in the last decade, four women still die at the hands of their partners and 700 are raped or sexually assaulted each day. It is particularly gratifying to note the current legislative emphasis on early intervention, a critical component of saving lives."
-Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA


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