Congressional Action Will Ensure Continued Funding of Vital Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Programs
TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senate President Pro Tempore Nia H. Gill today praised Congress for putting aside partisan bickering to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), legislation that – once signed by President Obama – would reauthorize the landmark law that protects women against domestic violence and sexual assault. Both Senators Weinberg and Gill are prime sponsors of S-2490, which would have provided bridge funding to New Jersey organizations that may have had to close their doors due to VAWA’s expiration and SR-94, which encouraged the House to reauthorize VAWA.
“VAWA has been a transformational program protecting vulnerable citizens from domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “The bill passed today will not only improve our nation and state’s response to women who are victims of these violent acts but other populations – such as Native Americans and the LBGT community – who are increasingly subject to violent abuse. Thankfully Congress has acted in time to save these programs.”
The law was originally enacted in 1994 and repeatedly reauthorized with bipartisan support until conservative lawmakers allowed it to expire in 2011 by blocking its reauthorization. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted to renew the law in April of 2012, but the House Republicans refused to allow a vote on the measure before the clock expired on the congressional session. The Senate reauthorization, passed today by the House, includes provisions that would specifically extend the VAWA protections to Native Americans and to the LGBT community.
“Programs funded by the federal Violence Against Women Act have gone a long way to ensure the safety and security of women and children from intimidation and violence throughout the state, but there is still much work to be done,” said Senator Gill, D-Essex/Passaic. “VAWA provides needed resources to women, as well as training to our law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges to stop domestic violence, prosecute abusers and treat victims. Today’s passage of VAMA is an important step because Congress has finally put aside partisanship to reauthorize this vital legislation.”
Nationally, funding from VAWA provided training for more than 500,000 judges, prosecutors and police officers to better equip them to recognize and respond to cases of violence against women. The rate of domestic violence dropped by more than 60 percent during the years the law was in place, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. But, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network estimates that a woman is assaulted nearly every two minutes somewhere in the country.
President Obama said that he will sign the legislation as soon as possible.