WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) joined 46 of his Senate colleagues to introduce a companion version of the House-passed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) aiming to strengthen protections for women against domestic violence and sexual assault. The legislation, which passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis six months ago, would reauthorize VAWA through 2024, provide critical funding to anti-crime priorities, preserve advancements made in previous reauthorizations, and add a number of improvements to the current law.
“Violence against women is a nationwide epidemic – including in Maine, where more than half of all homicides are directly related to domestic violence,” said Senator King. “The Violence Against Women Act is one of our nation’s most important tools to fight domestic violence and sexual assault, but it has remained unauthorized for nearly a year. That is unacceptable. Standing alongside my colleagues in the Senate, and in solidarity with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, I urge the Majority Leader to bring this bill to the Senate floor for a vote and bipartisan passage.”
Key provisions in the bill include:
- 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. 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.
- 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 the 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.
- 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 the 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.
- Protects the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women from being merged or consolidated into any other Justice Department officials.
- 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.