In an overwhelming 78 to 22 bipartisan vote, the Senate passed the Violence Against Women Act, a piece of legislation that has protected millions from domestic abuse and reduced the country’s rate of domestic violence. It was basically ensured the bill would pass since it had 62 cosponsors plus additional support from a few Republicans.
The bill authorizes $659 million to be spent over five years towards VAWA programs such as law enforcement training, transitional housing for victims, a stalker database, legal assistance grants and domestic violence hotlines. This is a 17 percent reduction from the last reauthorization in 2005.
The new VAWA extends protections to LGBT and Native American victims of domestic violence, gives increased support for sexual assault prevention and a more effective protocol for reducing the backlog of rape kits.
VAWA has been around since 1994 when then-Senator Joe Biden negotiated the bill, but it failed to be renewed for the first time ever at the close of the last Congress due to Republican opposition to the inclusion of LGBT people, undocumented immigrants and Native Americans in the new bill.
Now that the Senate has approved it, the pressure to advance it is back on the House, where GOP leaders are expected to come up with their own version of VAWA.
“Now the House must act immediately and pass the inclusive Senate reauthorization with a bipartisan vote,” said Ms. publisher and Feminist Majority Foundation president Ellie Smeal in a statement. “It currently has 194 cosponsors in the House. The political games that have caused well over a year’s delay in passing this VAWA Reauthorization must stop. VAWA has been and must remain a bipartisan effort. Violence against women cannot, must not be politicized, trivialized, or tolerated.”