07.11.12

Leahy: Time Is Running Out For Victims Of Violence

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, July 11, 2012) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead author of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, spoke on the floor Wednesday about the bill to renew the program’s charter, which has been lagging in the Congress since its strong bipartisan approval by the Senate and subsequent House action on a differing bill.  While the Senate passed VAWA in April with a strong bipartisan vote, the two chambers have failed to put aside partisan rhetoric and send a bill to the White House for signature.

With just four weeks left in the work period before Congress adjourns for the August break, Leahy called on lawmakers to take action without further delay. 

“I am concerned that politics threaten to get in the way of passing this critical legislation this year,” said Leahy. “Protecting every victim of domestic and sexual violence should be above politics, and Members of Congress from both chambers should set aside the political rhetoric and act swiftly to reauthorize this landmark legislation that has saved countless lives.”

Leahy and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) authored the Senate bill that received 68 votes in April, including 15 from Republicans. The measure, which builds on the landmark VAWA bill enacted in 1994, strengthens and improves existing programs to assist victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  The bill includes an increased focus on sexual assault, and has been endorsed by more than 1,000 national, state and local organizations, from law enforcement to religious organizations, victim advocates to health professionals.

“Victims should not be forced to wait any longer,” said Leahy.  “They will not benefit from the improvements made by the Senate bill unless both houses of Congress vote to pass this legislation.  The problems and barriers facing victims of domestic and sexual violence are too serious for Congress to delay.”

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy,
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
Time Is Now To Reauthorize VAWA
July 11, 2012

It has been nearly three months since the Senate passed the bipartisan Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.  Unfortunately, we are no closer to enacting this bill into law than we were in April when 68 Senators from both sides of the aisle voted for this critical legislation that protects women from domestic and sexual abuse.

I am concerned that politics threaten to get in the way of passing this critical legislation this year. Protecting every victim of domestic and sexual violence should be above politics, and Members of Congress from both chambers should set aside the political rhetoric and act swiftly to reauthorize this landmark legislation that has saved countless lives.

Time is running out.  There are only a few weeks left in this legislative session before election year politics takes over and Congress comes to a standstill.    There are critical improvements in the Leahy-Crapo Reauthorization Bill that will not take effect unless Congress acts.

Sexual assault programs will not receive the added support they need unless we pass our bill into law.  The legislation’s emphasis on increasing housing protections for victims and preventing homicides connected to domestic and sexual violence will not have an opportunity to help vulnerable victims across the country. Important improvements in campus safety and prevention programs for teens will not occur.  Immigrant victims, Native women, and LGBT victims will continue to remain without the services and protection they need and deserve. 

This legislation is too important to wait.  Victims, and the professionals who work on their behalf, need the improvements made by the Leahy-Crapo bill now.  This vital legislation is particularly important during difficult economic times.  The economic pressures facing many Americans can pose additional hurdles in leaving abusive relationships. Active community networks are needed to provide support to victims in these circumstances, yet budget cuts result in fewer available services, like emergency shelters, transitional housing, and counseling. 

Late last month, I had the opportunity to speak at the VAWA National Days of Action rally where survivors and the professionals in the field – those who have dedicated their lives to helping victims all over the country – gathered together to send Congress a message.  They are frustrated by the lack of progress in passing VAWA – and rightfully so, because they and the victims they serve are the ones who are affected by Congress’ inaction.  Their message to Congress was loud and clear – do your job, pass VAWA now.  Supporting the work of these tireless advocates, and the victims they help, should be our priority. 

Victims should not be forced to wait any longer.  They will not benefit from the improvements made by the Senate bill unless both houses of Congress vote to pass this legislation.  The problems and barriers facing victims of domestic and sexual violence are too serious for Congress to delay.  Domestic and sexual violence knows no political party.  Its victims are Republican and Democrat, rich and poor, young and old.  Helping these victims, all these victims, should be our goal. 

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