U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the House of Representatives to follow the Senate's lead and pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Violence Against Women Act passed the Senate on Thursday with overwhelming bipartisan support and would give law enforcement and various advocacy organizations the necessary tools to fight back against the scourge of domestic violence that continues to negatively impact communities throughout New York. The legislation contains grants to help train cops and legal officers in stopping domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. It toughens federal anti-stalking laws to ensure that digital stalking and new forms of harassment made possible by the internet and social media are harshly punished. And it ensures that victims of domestic violence have the proper resources available, including legal assistance, counseling, a 24-hour hotline and emergency housing. Schumer pointed out that according to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services there were over 85,000 domestic abuse incidents in which law enforcement was called to the scene between 2009 and 2010 in the New York Metropolitan Area.
"The Violence Against Women Act literally saves women's lives," said Schumer. "Since we passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, our nation has taken great strides towards helping victims of domestic abuse and prosecuting their abusers, and that's why it's a no-brainer to renew this crucial legislation, as we have done time and time again."
The original VAWA bill, which was authored by Schumer when he was a member of the House, expired one year ago. Many of the programs have continued to receive funding over the last year thanks to continuing resolutions passed by the House and Senate. Since 2006, law enforcement agencies across the state have received over $145 million in federal funds through programs included in the Violence Against Women's Act. The legislation Schumer supports would renew several successful programs and provides funding for training, education and outreach to help state and federal agencies do a better job of preventing violence against women and assisting victims of domestic violence. The legislation also includes new programs designed to specifically combat internet stalking and other uses of social media that can lead to domestic violence. The bill would extend these grant programs and critical protections for an additional 5 years.
During 2009 and 2010, there were 88,933 cases in the New York Metropolitan Area in which local, county, or state police officers were called to the scene of a domestic violence complaint, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Specifically, there were 54,699 reported incidents in New York City, 19,410 incidents on Long Island, and 14,824 reported incidents of domestic violence in the Hudson Valley. And according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, in a single 24-hour period in 2011, 4,572 victims of domestic violence received help from domestic violence programs in New York. These victims either sought refuge in emergency shelters or traditional housing provided by local domestic violence programs, or received non-residential assistance and services including individual counseling, legal advocacy and children's support groups.
Schumer today called on the House of Representatives to take up and pass the Senate version of VAWA, which is the only version of the legislation that has the support of the advocates who work on the ground with the victims of domestic violence. Schumer noted that a proposed Republican House bill, on the other hand, would, for the first time since VAWA was passed in 1994, fail to address the evolving needs of victims and advocacy organizations, and therefore could turn back the clock on women's rights. Schumer noted there are several new provisions of the law that were included in the Senate version of the bill that passed this past week and will make it stronger and more helpful for New York law enforcement. Some of the key provisions:
· Updates the criminal provisions of federal anti-stalking laws to capture all forms of electronic communications;
· Expands coverage to provide grants to underserved populations;
· Provides for 20 percent of funds (STOP grants) to go specifically to crimes of sexual violence, including dating violence and stalking;
· Mandates forensic exam kits paid for with federal dollars be made available to victims for free
· Requires college and universities receiving VAWA grants and other federal funds to collect and make public statistics on domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking incidents that were reported to campus security authorities or local police agencies.
· Maintains Court-Appointed Special Advocate program (CASA) at $12 million -- one of to help children navigate the court system in abuse and neglect cases
"The reauthorization of VAWA is more important than ever, because in today's economy, local municipalities are slashing social-service agency contracts left and right," continued Schumer. "Without federal assistance, where will victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault turn? I urge the House of Representatives to follow the Senate's lead and pass VAWA immediately so that victims of domestic violence can get the support they need, and so that law enforcement has the necessary tools to crackdown on this violent epidemic."