Protecting Victims of Sexual and Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking

Senator Leahy led efforts to protect and help victims of crime.  Most recently, he led the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  This legislation was first enacted in 1994 and is the bedrock of the Federal Government’s response to domestic violence.  The Violence Against Women Act provides critical funding for programs and initiatives designed to support and help victims of domestic and sexual violence.  These programs save lives and help reduce domestic violence nationwide.

Senator Leahy led the recent multi-year effort to renew and improve this important legislation.  Working together with Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, Senator Leahy introduced and shepherded the reauthorization legislation to passage in 2013.  The Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 renews VAWA's charter for another five years, and it includes new and vital protections for all victims of domestic violence, including college students, immigrant women, tribal women and members of the LGBT community.  The bill increases the focus on sexual assault and will help reduce the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the country.  It provides needed assistance to law enforcement agencies and victim service providers to better respond to sexual assault crimes.  It will also encourage and fund practices that are proven to help law enforcement and victim service providers reduce domestic violence homicides.  In drafting this new law, Senator Leahy spent years listening to experts in the field and the survivors they serve every day.  This legislation responds to the needs they expressed, and in practical and important ways it will make lives better and communities safer.  President Obama signed the bill into law on March 7, 2013.

Included in the reauthorization of VAWA was an amendment to reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  This comprehensive legislation, first enacted in 2000, is critical in the fight against human trafficking.  It has proven essential in raising awareness of the issue, providing victims of trafficking with much needed protection and assistance in the United States and abroad and facilitating in the prosecution of traffickers by giving prosecutors new tools to hold them accountable.

Senator Leahy believes we must prioritize federal funding for trafficking victims, and advocated to increase these resources.  He strongly supported  a recent  historic increase in funding for victims of trafficking in FY2015, nearly tripling resources for trafficking victims from its previous level.

Senator Leahy also reintroduced the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act with Senator Susan Collins of Maine this Congress.  This bill provides services to the 1.6 million homeless youth who too often become victims of trafficking here in the United States.  Ensuring that young people have access to shelter, counseling and job training is key to preventing their victimization, and can also help rescue children who have suffered at the hands of traffickers.  Senator Leahy will be working hard to get this important bill passed and signed into law during this Congress.