Senators Shaheen and Hassan Introduce Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Legislation
**At a Press Conference this Afternoon Announcing the Legislation, Shaheen Joined Senator Dianne Feinstein and Members of the Democratic Caucus to Introduce Senate Companion Legislation to the House-Passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act**
(Washington) – Today, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and all 47 Democratic Senators in introducing the Senate companion to the House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The legislation – which would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) through 2024 – includes important updates and reforms to the existing law to ensure women are protected and that survivors don’t face discrimination.
“Community organizations in New Hampshire and across the country rely on support from Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs that protect and assist survivors of domestic assault and sexual violence,” said Senator Shaheen. “Congress never should have allowed VAWA to expire in the first place, and it’s egregious that Senator McConnell is impeding important measures like this from moving forward. This Republican obstruction will have a direct impact on the well-being of Granite Staters if the political games don’t end. I’m proud to stand with Senator Feinstein to lead this reauthorization legislation and I’ll keep working to get this bill through Congress.”
“The Violence Against Women Act has helped to break down barriers that once silenced survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and has helped countless people receive the critical, life-saving support that they need,” Senator Hassan said. “I urge Majority Leader McConnell to bring this bill to the Senate floor so that Congress can finally reauthorize this essential program and ensure that abusers are brought to justice, survivors are supported, and communities are prepared to respond when these horrendous events occur.”
“We’re introducing the Senate companion to the House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act today because it’s a strong bill and protects women from abuse,” Senator Feinstein said. “The House passed its bill 263 to 158 with 33 Republicans voting yes. There’s no reason that the bill shouldn’t receive the same broad support in the Senate.”
Senator Feinstein continued: “I’ve been working with Senator Ernst on a bipartisan path forward and plan to continue those negotiations. Given the overwhelming House vote and the strength of that bill, however, now is the right time to introduce it. Make no mistake, there’s a dire need for this legislation. A quarter of American women will be the victim of physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetimes. More than a third of all women will be raped, assaulted or stalked. And the numbers are worse for Native American women, of whom some 84 percent will experience violence. Making VAWA stronger will help us lower those tragic numbers.”
Key provisions in the bill:
- Preserves and expands housing protections for survivors.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Shaheen has led efforts in Congress to safeguard the Office on Violence Against Women and programs operated under the Violence Against Women Act. The only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Shaheen has been a relentless advocate for women and girls in the United States and around the world. In the last Congress, Senator Shaheen led the bipartisan effort to reintroduce the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), which would ensure combating gender-based violence around the world remains a top diplomatic and development priority for the United States. As the lead Democrat of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Shaheen has repeatedly negotiated record-level federal funding to support grants provided through the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). In the fiscal year (FY) 2019 funding legislation, Shaheen procured $497.5 million, the highest level to date, for VAWA grants administered by the OVW. Shaheen successfully secured $500 million in VAWA programming in spending legislation that recently passed the Senate. Shaheen fought to reauthorize VAWA in 2013, working to help end the gridlock that had prevented its passage.
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