Senate Panel Reports Leahy-Authored Bill To Strengthen Violence Against Women Act

WASHINGTON (Thursday, May 7, 2009) – The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday reported legislation to help address the needs of domestic violence victims by strengthening key components of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  The Improving Assistance to Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Act was introduced in January by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

“This legislation was developed with the help and assistance of a number of the outstanding advocacy groups that have labored so hard over the years to implement the Violence Against Women Act,” said Leahy.  “People like Judy Rex in Vermont, and the dedicated people who work every day to provide security for women and families have come to us with improvements that will make implementing the goals of the Violence Against Women act more attainable.  That is what this bill is designed to do.”

The Violence Against Women Act was first signed into law in 1994, and Leahy worked to reauthorize the law in 2000 and 2005.  Among other important measures, the legislation reported Thursday will:

  • Bolster privacy protections for victims of domestic violence by strengthening the limitation on posting of identifying information about victims.
  • Enable many rural and Tribal areas that lack Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners to provide rape kits to victims. 
  • Include more victim services providers, including community-based organizations, state domestic violence coalitions, state sexual assault coalitions, and tribal coalitions, within its clearinghouse provisions, and enable these providers to make important resources available to employers and employees.
  • Update the definition of rural states and communities to account for overall population growth.

·         Specify that the national baseline study on violence against Native women includes the study of women who live in Alaska Native villages.  Women in Alaska Native villages are on the list of federally recognized Indian tribes, but are not included in the term “Indian Country.”  This provision clarifies that the study is intended to examine violence against Native women on all Indian lands of federally recognized Indian Tribes, which will ensure that Alaskan Native women are included and that the analysis is more complete and accurate.

The legislation is endorsed by several national groups, including Break the Cycle, Casa de Esperanza, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Center for Victims of Crime, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

The legislation will now be reported to the full Senate for consideration.

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