Leahy, Feinstein, And Other Senators Introduce House-Passed Violence Against Women Act

. . . They Call On Majority Leader McConnell To Rescue VAWA From His ‘Legislative Graveyard’

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and others on Wednesday led all 47 Democratic senators in introducing the Senate companion to the House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.  They called on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring VAWA renewal legislation to the Senate Floor.

The bill, whose chief sponsor is Feinstein, would reauthorize VAWA through 2024, preserves advancements made in previous reauthorizations and includes a number of additional improvements to the current law.

Leahy was the author and chief sponsor of the last VAWA reauthorization bill that he steered through the Judiciary Committee and the Senate in 2013, and which now has expired.  He also led the successful effort to convince House Republican leaders to allow a vote on Leahy’s stronger version, compared to a weaker Republican version.  Leahy’s 2013 law had strengthened VAWA and its grant programs by expanding protections for particularly vulnerable communities, as well as renewing the landmark legislation.  The programs authorized under VAWA are used throughout Vermont in addressing domestic violence and other issues.

In a news conference in the Capitol, Leahy recounted his experiences as a prosecutor in Vermont in encountering domestic violence and other crimes.  Leahy said:  “Before the Senate came together six years ago to pass the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, many skeptics had called for a watered down VAWA bill to make it easier to pass.  We instead chose to stand by the survivors and victim services professionals who called for legislation that would protect all victims, regardless of their immigration status, their sexual orientation, or their membership in an Indian tribe.

Leahy continued:  “Today those same victim advocates are calling for further improvements to VAWA. I’m proud to again stand with them, and to stand with my dear friend Senator Dianne Feinstein to introduce legislation that has already passed the House with a strong bipartisan vote and would make VAWA stronger than ever before.”

            Key provisions in the bill:

  • Protects Native American women by improving tribal access to federal crime information databases and reaffirming tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking for all federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaskan Natives.
  • Explicitly states that grant recipients are allowed to train staff and others on identifying and stopping discrimination against LGBT individuals. Service providers currently remain uncertain about whether they can use grants to train for this.
  • Reauthorizes and updates the SMART Prevention Program to reduce dating violence, help children who have been exposed to violence and engage men in preventing violence.
  • Expands grants under the Public Health Service Act to support implementation of training programs to improve the capacity of early childhood programs to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking among the families they serve.
  • Provides services, protection and justice for young victims of violence, including extending the Rape Prevention and Education grant program, addressing bullying of young people, improving grants focused on prevention education for students and expanding relevant training for school-based and campus health centers.
  • Preserves and expands housing protections for survivors.
  • Provides economic security assistance for survivors by reauthorizing the National Resource Center on Workplace Responses. Protects employees from being fired because they are survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence and protects survivors’ eligibility to receive unemployment insurance.
  • Enhances judicial and law enforcement tools through reauthorization of the Justice Department’s STOP Violence Against Women Formula Program, known as the STOP Program. Authorizes the use of STOP Program grants to expand the use of grant funding for programs focused on increasing survivor, law enforcement and community safety; increase legal assistance for dependent children in appropriate circumstances; and develop and enforce firearm surrender policies.
  • Protects the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women from being merged or consolidated into any other Justice Department office.
  • Helps prevent “intimate partner” homicides by including provisions expanding firearms laws to prohibit persons convicted of dating violence from possessing firearms, prohibiting persons convicted of misdemeanor stalking from possessing firearms and prohibiting individuals subject to ex parte protective orders from possessing firearms.

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