Democrats pressure Congress to pass VAWA

Democrats are cranking up the pressure on Republicans to pass the Violence Against Women Act as the Senate is expected to vote on the bill soon.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the bill’s lead sponsor, urged Congress on Monday to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which funds support programs for domestic violence victims and prosecutions of domestic abusers.

Since VAWA’s introduction in 1994, nationwide domestic violence rates have dropped by two-thirds and the number of women killed by their partners have decreased by 30%.

“For almost 18 years, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been the centerpiece of the Federal Government’s commitment to combating domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” said Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The impact of this landmark law has been remarkable.  It has provided life saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of women, men, and children.”

Read more: GOP lawmakers oppose reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act

Although VAWA has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, Senate Republicans have tried to block the bill’s reauthorization this year, citing objections to provisions that protect Native American women, LGBT individuals, and undocumented immigrants from sexual and domestic violence.

“The provisions that a minority on the Judiciary Committee labeled controversial are, in fact, modest changes to meet the genuine, unmet needs that service providers have told us they see every day as they work with victims all over the country. As every prior VAWA reauthorization has done, this bill takes steps to recognize those victims whose needs are not being met and finds ways to help them,” said Leahy. “This is not new or different.  It should not be a basis for partisan division or delay.”

Leahy’s entreaties were backed by Attorney General Eric Holder, who urged lawmakers to reauthorize VAWA.

“As a former judge, I’ve seen the consequences that violence against women can have on neighborhoods and families – and, especially and most tragically, on young people,” Holder said. “Fulfilling this commitment has never been more urgent.”

Despite the strides made by VAWA, Holder estimated that more than 2 million adults and 15 million children still experience violence at home every year, costing the nation more than $8 billion annually.

VAWA targets funding to help women in underserved communities

Leahy’s bill would expand protections for women in underserved communities, particularly for Native American women. Women and girls in tribal communities experience 2 to 10 times more violent crimes than the national average, and many of the violent acts are committed by non-Native Americans on tribal land.

“The status quo is – quite simply – unacceptable,” said Holder. “That’s why the Justice Department has proposed legislation – which is included in the VAWA Reauthorization Bill – that would close significant legal gaps and give Indian Country law enforcement officials, investigators, and prosecutors the tools they need to crack down on violence against women and girls.”

Republicans, led by Sen. Chuck Grassley, opposed the Justice Department’s requested provision because they feared tribal criminal justice systems won’t provide adequate due process for non-Native American suspects accused of domestic violence.


Learn More: