WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein and all of their Democratic colleagues in introducing the Senate companion to the House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The bill, which would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) through 2024, provides essential protections and resources to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The legislation preserves advancements made in previous reauthorizations and includes a number of additional improvements to the current law.
“Unfortunately, in today’s society, there’s so much more we must do to combat violence against women. This legislation passed the House with bipartisan support and we need to do the same in the Senate. We’re calling on our colleagues to help us swiftly pass this bill to protect survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse,” the Senators said.
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 Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women from being merged or consolidated into any other 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 stalking from possessing firearms, and prohibiting individuals subject to ex parte protective orders from possessing firearms.
Warner and Kaine have long supported victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. As Governor of Virginia, Kaine made curbing violence a top priority by convening the Governor’s Commission on Sexual Violence and implementing numerous recommendations. Some of the reforms included updating domestic violence laws, improving treatment of victims, and providing additional resources to first responders. In 2011, a census of domestic violence shelters and services found that 1,304 domestic violence victims were served in just one day in Virginia.