Wexton votes to pass Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization
On March 17, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) voted to pass bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize and expand the Violence Against Women Act.
Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA has helped millions of women fight back against domestic violence and sexual assault by equipping them with legal assistance, expanding access to survivor support services, and funding education and prevention initiatives. However, experts estimate that one in three women in the U.S. still experience domestic violence, and hotlines and resource centers across the country have seen a spike in cases during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our vote today to reauthorize and expand the landmark Violence Against Women Act sends a message to all survivors that you are not alone and help is out there,” said Wexton. “As a former prosecutor of domestic violence cases and advocate for abused women, I’ve seen firsthand the impacts of VAWA’s legal protections and survivor support services. Our efforts will not only continue and improve these services for victims, but this bill will also ensure every survivor has access to VAWA’s lifesaving programs and protect survivors of dating violence by closing the boyfriend loophole.”
The reauthorization and expansion of VAWA passed by the House addresses the challenges identified by survivors and by domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and other organizations that serve survivors. It includes provisions to:
- Enhance and expand victim services;
- Reauthorize grant programs to improve the criminal justice response to gender-based violence and expands allowable uses;
- Invest in prevention;
- Improve access to housing for victims and survivors;
- Help survivors gain and maintain economic independence;
- End impunity for non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse co-occurring with domestic violence, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands;
- Support Communities of Color;
- Protect victims of dating violence from firearm homicide;
- Maintain existing protections for all survivors; and
- Improve the healthcare system’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
The bill also protects victims of dating violence by closing a loophole in current firearms law, known as the “boyfriend loophole,” to prevent abusive dating partners and stalkers from possessing a firearm.
The House also passed the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act. This legislation would redirect money collected by the federal government under deferred prosecution or non-prosecution agreements to be deposited into the Crime Victims Fund, which provides financial assistance to victims of crimes, helping to cover crime-related expenses such as lost wages and medical or mental health care cost. The CVF supports crucial victims service providers, including programs that serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, drunk driving, and human trafficking.
Communities across the country have seen a significant rise in calls to domestic violence hotlines and police during COVID, as the public health emergency coupled with increased stress and anxiety from the financial burdens has made day to day life even more dangerous over the past year and stay at home orders left many survivors isolated or trapped with an abuser.
Last month, Wexton introduced bipartisan legislation to provide guidance and resources to law enforcement, often the first responders in domestic violence cases, as they address increased levels of domestic violence during the pandemic.