12/13/2019 — 

WARWICK, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse today joined with women’s advocates and survivors of domestic abuse to call on the U.S. Senate to swiftly approve the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act introduced by the Democratic senators last month.  The bill preserves advancements made in previous reauthorizations of the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and makes new strides to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault and to support survivors.  Today’s event was held in Warwick at the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, which serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The most recent reauthorization of VAWA expired in February.  It has been more than 250 days since the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act passed the House with bipartisan support, but Republican leadership in the Senate has not allowed a vote on the bill. 

The House passed the legislation 263-158, with 33 Republicans voting yes.

“Domestic violence is a major problem and the Violence Against Women Act is a critical lifeline that should be strengthened and reauthorized.  Here in Rhode Island, and in communities across the country, the law has provided non-profit organizations like RICADV, the Women’s Resource Center and Day One with federal support and resources to help victims of domestic and sexual abuse.  To allow this law to lapse is to deny critical resources and protections to those who need it most.  It is inexcusable and I urge Republican leaders in Washington to listen to law enforcement, advocates, and families across the country who are all saying the same thing: reauthorize VAWA, go after offenders, and protect vulnerable Americans,” said Senator Reed.

“It is unconscionable that the landmark federal law protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault has been allowed to lapse for nearly a year,” said Senator Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  “This legislation has already passed the House with bipartisan support, and it goes further than previous versions of the law to prevent violence and secure justice for survivors.  Republican Senate leaders need to make passing this bill an immediate priority.” 

Reed and Whitehouse also announced at today’s event that Rhode Island organizations will receive five grants totaling over $2 million from the U.S. Department of Justice to support crime victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and strengthen services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

“We know first-hand how critical VAWA is to survivors and their families.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of the initial passage of VAWA, which has since transformed how our country responds to domestic and sexual abuse, teen dating violence and stalking for the better – protecting and empowering victims and survivors.  The legislation to reauthorize VAWA was created by listening to the needs of people who have experienced violence. I cannot stress this enough: This is a lifesaving bill,” said Tonya Harris, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  “VAWA not only supports survivors in their journey to safety and security – it helps ensure future generations can live their lives free from intimate partner violence.”

“VAWA has been instrumental in Day One’s growth and ability to support victims of sexual violence,” said Peg Langhammer, Executive Director of Day One, an agency that provides support for victims of sexual assault.  “We commend our congressional delegation for the leadership they have consistently demonstrated in advocating for victims of sexual assault.  The legislation ensures that Rhode Island continues to have a state-wide collaborative system that is focused on comprehensive victim support.”

The fiscal year 2019 U.S Department of Justice grants for Rhode Island organizations include:

• $1,362,741 for the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety, which will receive a $983,801 Services, Training, Officers and Prosecution (STOP) grant and a $378,940 Sexual Assault Services (SAS) grant. 

• $407,438 to the Women’s Resource Center (Newport) to enhance services provided to victims of domestic violence and provide holistic, victim-centered support services that move individuals into permanent housing. 

• $151,242 to Day One (Providence) to help Day One advocate for sexual assault victims of all ages, educate the public, and work toward prevention.

• $90,975 to the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (Warwick) in support of state coalition efforts to coordinate victim services statewide and advance the goals of the Violence Against Women Act.