September 17, 2014
This month marks
the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) � landmark
legislation in which our nation committed new prevention and response
resources so that our mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends would
no longer have to suffer in silence through domestic abuse.
Though meaningful progress
has been realized, domestic violence continues to be a real and
troubling challenge in our communities. Far too many of us have been touched
by domestic violence in one way or another. According to the National
Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an estimated 1.3 million women
are victims each year, and one in every four women will experience such
violence in their lifetime.
Just last year, Turning Points, the only domestic violence
intervention program in Prince William County, served 6,000 clients. In
Fairfax County there were more than 8,000 incidents reported, and we
have seen a 40 percent increase in homelessness due to domestic
This is why I
was so disappointed when the House Republican majority blocked a
bipartisan modernization of VAWA for 18 months before relenting last year.
The Senate passed the bill in a strong and bipartisan 78-22 vote, but
some House Republicans objected because they did not want to extend
protections to Native Americans, LGBT Americans, and immigrants.
Thankfully, House leadership finally put aside this obstructionism and
ultimately allowed the House to pass the improved VAWA bill, which I and an
overwhelming number of Democrats supported.
Thanks to VAWA, we have strengthened and
expanded critical protections for all victims of domestic violence and
enhanced our nation�s criminal justice response. Specifically, VAWA has
instituted stricter sentencing guidelines for repeat federal sex crime
offenders and provided resources to tribal, local, and state law
enforcement communities to address violent crimes against women. In
addition, VAWA funds specialized training for 500,000 law enforcement
officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year. The National
Domestic Violence Hotline, which responds to more than 22,000 urgent
calls for help every month, also was created under VAWA.
The updated VAWA is renewing our
successful partnerships with local nonprofits and law enforcement
agencies. It is improving protections for underserved communities,
particularly immigrants and victims of human trafficking. And of particular
importance for helping victims through the recovery process, the new
bill is expanding housing assistance and providing support regardless
of sexual orientation.
Sadly, recent events in the news demonstrate that
although we have made great progress, as a community we must remain
vigilant in protecting those threatened by domestic violence. Please know
that I will continue to push Congress to maintain and expand the
investments needed to support these critical programs in our community and
continue to be a voice of support to those who might otherwise not
speak up for themselves.