WASHINGTON, D.C. – On a vote of 85 to 8, the effort to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) cleared a key procedural hurdle this evening and the bill is now on track to be approved by the full U.S. Senate this week. U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), a strong supporter and cosponsor of the bill, called on the U.S. House of Representatives to also take up legislation to reauthorize the law to help victims of domestic violence.
VAWA is the federal law that provides Rhode Island with funds for domestic violence hotlines, shelters, and training and education for nurses and law enforcement to help prevent domestic violence and protect victims from their abusers. Originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized with bipartisan support in 2000 and 2005, the law expired in 2011, despite strong bipartisan support in the Senate. House Republicans blocked the bipartisan Senate version because they opposed provisions that would expand protections against abuse for the LGBT community and immigrant victims.
“The Violence Against Women Act is literally a lifeline that helps victims escape their abusers. Opponents of the bill ran out the legislative clock on this important measure last year. Now is the time for both the Senate and House to take action and provide critical support to domestic violence victims,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal funding for the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women programs.
According to the most recent statistics from the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, over 13,000 hotline/helpline calls were answered and nearly 9,700 domestic violence victims in Rhode Island sought services in 2011.
The Senate is expected to pass the VAWA reauthorization later this week and send it to the House of Representatives for consideration.