Joined by local advocates and law enforcement at the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County this afternoon, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25) called on Congress and President Trump to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) ahead of its expiration later this year. Slaughter co-authored this law, which has reduced cases of domestic violence by 67 percent since 1994, and was a lead advocate for its recent reauthorization in 2013 that included immigrant, LGBTQ, and Native American populations. Since that reauthorization, Monroe County organizations have received more than $5 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women under this law to provide critical services to local domestic violence survivors.
"Co-authoring the Violence Against Women Act is one of the most important accomplishments of my career. It empowers survivors to speak out and by delivering resources where they're needed most is drastically reducing cases of domestic violence. Our community is home to many organizations and law enforcement agencies that are providing critical services to survivors because of this groundbreaking law. I thank many of them for joining me here today. Most importantly, I thank them and so many others for joining me in calling on Congress and President Trump to quickly reauthorize this law as our nation continues combating the scourge of domestic violence," said Slaughter.
Last September marked the 23rd anniversary of VAWA, and statistics demonstrate that it has been a major success. Since 1994, the annual incidence of domestic violence has fallen by two-thirds, and reporting of domestic violence has increased by as much as 51 percent. Over one million women have obtained protective orders against their abusers. The National Domestic Violence Hotline receives 22,000 calls every month from abused or threatened partners seeking help, with federal programs in place to meet their needs. Countless children have been removed from harmful situations, breaking the generational cycle of violence.
This law has also changed the culture with regard to domestic violence. Before VAWA, domestic violence was a private matter that was not discussed in the media or in the halls of Congress. The original debate around VAWA elevated public awareness, brought women out of the shadows and let survivors everywhere know they were not alone. As a result of that cultural shift, public pressure has mounted on institutions from universities to the U.S. Military to the National Football League to combat domestic violence and sexual assault.
In 2013, Slaughter was a major force in the expansion of VAWA to protect Native Americans and LGBT partners, and fully protect immigrant women under the law. It is due to be reauthorized again before the end of the current fiscal year and Slaughter is encouraging Congress to act quickly so this transformational law can continue helping survivors in Monroe County and across the country.
Slaughter has also led the charge to protect access to healthcare for abuse survivors through her leadership enacting the Affordable Care Act, which she brought to the House Floor as chairwoman of the House Rules Committee. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, eight states and the District of Columbia allowed insurance companies to label domestic violence as a pre-existing condition, and used it as justification to drop coverage. By this logic, if a partner had been abused once, they would be abused again and would be too expensive to ensure. The Affordable Care Act has outlawed that insidious practice nationwide.
"With over 92 percent of homeless mothers having experienced severe physical or sexual abuse during their lifetime, our YWCA is committed to providing a trauma informed home environment that supports women in renewing their spirit and rebuilding their lives. The reauthorization of the federal Violence Against Women Act is a critical piece of the platform required for women and their families to use their strengths to move beyond homelessness to a stable home and develop their skills and talents moving themselves and their families forward," said Jean Carroll, CEO of the YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County.
"The re-authorization of VAWA will literally save lives, protecting thousands of survivors of domestic violence right here in Monroe County by funding critical services, law enforcement training and cross-agency partnerships to ensure safety for survivors," said Bonnie C. DeVinney, Interim President & CEO of Willow Domestic Violence Center.
"For the Legal Aid Society of Rochester, funding through VAWA has allowed us to provide much needed civil legal services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. VAWA funding is integral to the continuation of these highly successful programs for victims that help ensure the safety of victims and their children," said Carla M. Palumbo, Esq., President & CEO of The Legal Aid Society of Rochester. "VAWA funding through Legal Services to Victims Grant Program allows for comprehensive legal services in any area of the law that could impede victim safety. VAWA funding through the, Improving Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking Grant Program provides an integrated community-wide response that includes civil representation, coordinated community response and law enforcement support."