01.26.09

Leahy Introduces Bill To Strengthen Violence Against Women Act

WASHINGTON (Monday, Jan. 26, 2009) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation Monday to strengthen the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  The Improving Assistance to Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Act will help address the needs of the growing number of domestic violence victims.

“With these important changes to the Violence Against Women Act, Congress will ensure that the law is as effective and strong as it was intended to be and that it can meet the needs of those it seeks to protect as we move forward,” said Leahy.  “I hope all Senators will join in support of this effort.”

Leahy worked with crime victim advocates to draft the legislation, which will improve the operation and implementation of the Violence Against Women Act.  The Leahy-authored legislation clarifies and makes technical corrections to the Violence Against Women Act.  The bill also:

  • Bolsters privacy protections for victims of domestic violence by strengthening the limitation of on Internet publication of protection orders to prevent the posting of identifying information about victims
  • Expands the workplace clearing house provision, which compiles best practices for employers, to include more victim services providers, including community-based organizations, state domestic violence coalitions, state sexual assault coalitions, and tribal coalitions, thus enabling these providers to make important resources available to employers, labor organizations, and employees
  • Eliminates an existing loophole that can result in the inappropriate administration of polygraph examinations to crime victims, a provision supported by the National District Attorneys Association
  • Strengthens protections in existing law for battered immigrant women

The Violence Against Women Act was first signed into law in 1994, and Leahy worked with former Senator Joe Biden to reauthorize the law in 2000 and 2005.  Leahy worked with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Legal Momentum, and the National Center for Victims of Crime to draft the Improving Assistance to Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Act.

Leahy’s full statement on the introduction of the Improving Assistance to Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Act follows.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy,
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The Introduction Of The
“Improving Assistance To Domestic And Sexual Violence Victims Act Of 2009”
January 23, 2009

I am pleased to introduce the Improving Assistance to Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Act of 2009 to make urgently needed improvements to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  The bill makes corrections and improvements so that this law, a law that has helped so many, can continue to serve as a powerful tool to combat domestic violence and other crimes perpetrated against women and families. 

In introducing this measure, I recognize the leadership shown on these issues by Senator Joe Biden who now serves as our Vice President.  Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has been the centerpiece of the Federal government’s commitment to combating domestic violence and other violent crimes against women.  Its passage and reauthorization made a strong statement in support of the rights of women in America.  This landmark law filled a void in Federal law that had left too many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault without the help they needed.

Since the bill’s passage, there has been a 27 to 51 percent increase in domestic violence reporting rates by women and a 37 percent increase in reporting rates by men.  The number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 24 percent for women and 48 percent for men.  I have been proud to work with then-Senator Biden on these matters for the more than 15 years.  I look forward to working with the Obama-Biden administration to ensure that this law remains a vital resource for prosecutors, social workers, and all of those committed to ending crimes against women and alleviating the terrible harms that result from these crimes. 

I crafted the legislation I introduce today with the assistance of advocates and those in the field who work with the Violence Against Women Act every day.  It contains changes to VAWA that will improve the law’s operation and implementation.  I want to thank the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Legal Momentum, and the National Center for Victims of Crime for their assistance with and support for this legislation, and for their tireless work on behalf women and families in the United States.  These groups and others across the country play a crucial role in fulfilling the promise that Congress made with the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act.   

Among several other fixes, the bill strengthens privacy protections for victims of domestic violence.  It contains provisions to ease the burden on victims of domestic violence to obtain public housing benefits.  It eliminates an existing loophole that often results in the inappropriate administration of polygraph examinations to victims of terrible crimes.  The legislation also contains provisions to strengthen protections in existing law for battered immigrant women.  With these important changes to the Violence Against Women Act, Congress will ensure that the law is as effective and strong as it was intended to be and that it can meet the needs of those it seeks to protect as we move forward.  I hope all Senators will join in support of this effort.

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