Senator Chuck Schumer this morning called on the House to pass a bill called the “Violence Against Women Act,” which he says literally saves women’s lives.
A measure to reauthorize the act was approved by the Senate on Thursday with broad bipartisan support, despite some objections from Republicans about a few key provisions. The legislation includes grants to help train cops and legal officers in stopping domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. In addition, it also toughens federal anti-stalking laws so that digital stalking and “new forms of harassment” tied to the internet and social media are more harshly punished.
The bill also supports resources for those facing domestic violence, including legal assistance, counseling, a 24-hour hotline, and emergency housing. There were more than 85,000 domestic abuse incidents in which law enforcement was called to a scene between 2009 and 2010 in the New York metro area, Schumer noted in a press release.
In the context of election-year gender politics, discussions of the bill have been somewhat contentious this year. The 68-31 vote marked the first time since the Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994 that its renewal has drawn opposition in the Senate — a reaction in part to increased polarization and tension around women’s issues as presidential and congressional races heat up.
“The Violence Against Women Act literally saves women’s lives,” said a statement from Schumer, who authored the original bill when he was a member of the House. “Since we passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, our nation has taken great strides towards helping victims of domestic abuse and prosecuting their abusers, and that’s why it’s a no-brainer to renew this crucial legislation, as we have done time and time again.”
Schumer today was specifically pushing for the House of Representatives to pass the Senate version and not a Republican House bill, which he says would, for the first time since 1994, fail to address the needs of victims of domestic violence. Some key provisions of the Senate version that Schumer pointed out include:
-Updates the criminal provisions of federal anti-stalking laws to capture all forms of electronic communications.
-Expands coverage to provide grants to underserved populations.
-Provides for 20 percent of funds (STOP grants) to go specifically to crimes of sexual violence, including dating violence and stalking.
-Mandates forensic exam kits paid for with federal dollars be made available to victims for free.
-Requires college and universities receiving VAWA grants and other federal funds to collect and make public statistics on domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking incidents that were reported to campus security authorities or local police agencies.
-Maintains Court-Appointed Special Advocate program (CASA) at $12 million – one of to help children navigate the court system in abuse and neglect cases.