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Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

This week, the U.S. Senate will begin floor consideration of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Since 1994, VAWA has been at the forefront of providing funding and services for victims and their children across the country, including in our local communities, to address sexual and domestic violence and its destructive impact on the lives of millions of families. Last reauthorized in 2005, it is long overdue for Congress to reauthorize VAWA to provide additional funds and services to all victims of sexual and domestic violence.

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) have introduced S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which will go a long way in expanding the VAWA programs to respond to the unmet needs of victims and reach underserved populations who have previous lacked access to VAWA programs. The legislation expands the law's focus on sexual assault and ensures access to services to all victims of domestic and sexual violence. Further, the reauthorization measure addresses domestic and sexual violence in tribal communities, strengthening concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction to give Indian tribes the authority to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over a defendant who commits domestic or dating violence or who violates protection orders in Indian country. It also increases access to services for immigrant victims of violence and secures greater workplace protections for survivors of violence.

In her statement on the importance of the Violence Against Women Act and particularly the tribal provisions of the new legislation, Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies reminds us, "In our baptismal covenant we promise to 'strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.' The safety and protection of all women from violence and abuse is not a political issue. It is a moral issue for all Americans, and for all the baptized, it is a Christian issue." You can read her full statement here.

The Episcopal Church remains committed to working with the government and through its dioceses and parishes in the effort to reduce the incidences of violence of against women. More than two decades ago, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church called upon the Church at every level to renew a commitment to address violence in every sector of society, especially that of domestic violence aimed toward spouses, children and older adults. More than a decade ago, the Episcopal Church called upon Episcopalians to learn about and reflect upon "the practical, pastoral, spiritual, and/or theological issues related to the problems of sexual or domestic violence and called upon congregations to make an active and ongoing response to these problems in their local community."

Please contact your Senators today to urge them vote YES on S. 1925, the Leahy/Crapo VAWA reauthorization bill.

 


The Violence Against Women Act, originally enacted in 1994 as Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322), emphasizes funding of enforcement efforts as well as educational and social programs to prevent crime. The focus of the funding is on local government programs, an approach that the sponsors of the legislation believed was the most promising technique for reducing crime and violence. VAWA 2005 was enacted on January 5, 2006. Among other things, VAWA 2005 reauthorized existing VAWA programs and created many new programs. The act encourages collaboration among law enforcement, judicial personnel, and public and private service providers to victims of domestic and sexual violence; increases public awareness of domestic violence; addresses the special needs of victims of domestic and sexual violence, including the elderly, disabled, children, youth, and individuals of ethnic and racial communities; authorizes long-term and transitional housing for victims; makes some provisions gender-neutral; and requires studies and reports on the effectiveness of approaches used for certain grants in combating violence.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S. 1925) has been introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (VT) and Mike Crapo (WY) and is now under floor consideration. S. 1925 expands the law's focus on sexual assault and ensures access to services to all victims of domestic and sexual violence. Further, the reauthorization measure addresses domestic and sexual violence in tribal communities, strengthening concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction to give Indian tribes the authority to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over a defendant who commits domestic or dating violence or who violates protection orders in Indian country. It also increases access to services for immigrant victims of violence and secures greater workplace protections for survivors of violence.


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