EIGHT MONTHS SINCE ITS EXPIRATION & SIX MONTHS AFTER BIPARTISAN HOUSE PASSAGE, THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT REMAINS BLOCKED BY SENATE LEADERSHIP, LEAVING CRITICAL PROGRAMS TO COMBAT DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN LIMBO; WITH +1K DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ARRESTS IN SYRACUSE LAST YEAR, SCHUMER PUSHES FOR SENATE VOTE ASAP
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Created Critical Programs For Law Enforcement, Judicial Personnel & Service Providers, Like Vera House, To Support Survivors Of Domestic Violence; VAWA Expired In February
Standing At The Vera House With Advocates, Law Enforcement & Survivors, Schumer Calls On Senate To Take Up & Approve Bipartisan House-Passed 5-Year Extension Of VAWA
Schumer: By Allowing VAWA To Expire & Failing To Reauthorize, Senate Leadership Is Failing Syracuse Domestic Violence And Sexual Assault Survivors
Standing at the Vera House in Syracuse, and with National Domestic Violence Awareness Month underway, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, flanked by advocates, law enforcement and survivors, today explained that even though funding expired last February, Congress has yet to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). According to statistics from the Vera House’s annual report, the Syracuse Police Department responded to 10,785 domestic calls in 2018, arresting 1,320 for crimes related to domestic violence. Schumer said that considering these statistics, it is of the utmost importance for organizations like Vera House, law enforcement and other service providers to have sufficient access to federal funding and programs to provide support and recovery services to victims and survivors. Therefore, Schumer urged his colleagues in the Senate to take up the bipartisan, commonsense, House-passed 5-year extension of VAWA, which would establish and reauthorize a number of federal grant programs designed to ensure that survivors of domestic and sexual abuse and assault receive the support they need to heal from horrific crimes.
“There is nothing more important than protecting women, children and any other survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and by allowing the lifesaving Violence Against Women Act to expire, by not passing the bi-partisan House-passed VAWA bill, and letting this issue lay dormant for eight months, Senate leadership is failing our Syracuse victims and survivors. For decades, this landmark legislation has helped send lifesaving dollars to Central New York communities, and wonderful organizations like Vera House, to develop specialized law enforcement units, train professionals in handling domestic violence and sexual assault, improve prosecutions of these crimes and provide services to survivors,” said Senator Schumer. “And even though VAWA has resulted in such a significant drop in these crimes, and the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan, commonsense 5-year extension of it last April, all we’ve heard in the Senate is radio silence. Each and every one of the 1,320 domestic violence arrests made in Syracuse last year is one too many, so the Senate must lift the blockade on this bill, follow the House’s lead and pass the VAWA extension as soon as possible.”
Schumer said that while the landmark VAWA has played a significant role in decreasing incidents of domestic and sexual violence across the country and in Central New York, there is still much work to be done. On October 4th, the Vera House released its 30th Annual Report to the Community on Domestic & Sexual Violence, laying out a number of alarming statistics on the issue in the area. In 2018, the Vera House aided 1,562 victims, helping them recover from their traumatic experiences, and answered 5,803 calls on its 24-hour Crisis & Support Hotline. Additionally, Vera House offered shelter to 323 children and adults who were attempting to escape situations of domestic and sexual violence.
Vera House also issued a similar report on the local justice system’s response to domestic and sexual violence, highlighting more alarming statistics. In 2018, the Syracuse Police Department answered 10,785 domestic calls, with the Onondaga County Sherriff’s Office, New York State Police and Town and Village Police answering another 6,813 calls in Onondaga County. The Syracuse Police Department arrested 1,320 domestic violence perpetrators, and the Onondaga County Sherriff’s Office, New York State Police and Town and Village Police arrested another 1,835 people committing domestic and sexual violence in Onondaga County. Schumer said that despite progress being made, these statistics highlight the need to pass the extension and reauthorization of VAWA.
The original 1994 VAWA bill, which was authored by Schumer when he was a member of the House, has been reauthorized three times—in 2000, 2005 and 2013—with unanimous Senate approval the first two times. Since its enactment, the bill has reduced domestic violence by more than 50 percent. Additionally, the legislation, over the course of its history, has provided more than $7 billion in federal funding towards reducing these types of violence. However this lifesaving, bipartisan bill expired in February of this year. Many of the programs have continued to receive funding over the last year thanks to continuing resolutions passed by the House and Senate. In the 116th Congress, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 passed by a vote of 263-158 last April, with bipartisan support. However, the Senate has yet to take up the commonsense, House-passed VAWA reauthorization bill. Today, Schumer is pushing to change that.
Beyond reauthorizing all of the current grant programs under the original VAWA and those established by previous reauthorizations, the House-passed VAWA reauthorization also includes a number of new provisions to aid and support victims of domestic and sexual violence. Some of the most essential include:
- Establishing a survey among District and State Attorney Offices that receive funding from VAWA grant programs to track the rates of rape cases.
- Increasing funding for the Services, Training Officers and Prosecutors (STOP) grant program, which promotes a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to enhancing advocacy and improving the criminal justice system’s response to violent crimes against women. The program encourages the development and improvement of effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to address violent crimes against women and the development and improvement of advocacy and services in cases involving violent crimes against women.
- Enhancing the Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus Program by supporting educational institutions seeking to develop and distribute educational materials to students related to prevention.
- Boosting housing protections for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Additionally, a provision in the reauthorization bill ensures that in the event of separation from a spouse, survivors retain access to housing. The bill also increases opportunities under transitional housing grant programs for organizations that operate in underserved and low-income communities.
- Promoting the economic security and stability of victims of domestic and sexual violence. One of the ways the VAWA reauthorization bill would do this would be by authorizing funding for a Government Accountability Office study on the economic implications of domestic violence and the best possible solution to these implications for victims.
And beyond these new components of VAWA, the reauthorization bill would also reauthorize and extend funding for existing grant programs under the legislation. Some of these programs include:
- The Consolidated Grant Program to Address Children and Youth Experiencing Domestic and Sexual Assault and Engage Men and Boys as Allies (CYEM) Program, which supports projects that develop, expand and strengthen prevention, intervention and response strategies that target children, youth and young adults who are survivors of or exposed to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking or sex trafficking, including support for the non-abusing parents, caretakers and legal guardians.
- The Legal Assistance for Victims Grant (LAV) Program, which works to increase the availability of civil and criminal legal assistance programs for adult and youth victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking who are seeking relief in legal matters relating to or arising from that abuse or violence, at minimal or no cost to victims.
- The Enhanced Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life Grant Program, which aims to increase and strengthen training for police, prosecutors, and the judiciary in recognizing, investigating and prosecuting instances of abuse, neglect, exploitation, domestic violence and sexual assault against seniors.
- The Disability Grant Program, which works to increase the accessibility of safe and effective services for individuals with disabilities who are survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
- The Improving Criminal Justice Responses Grant Program, which enhances victim safety and offender accountability in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking by encouraging jurisdictions to work collaboratively with community partners to identify problems and share ideas that result in effective responses to these crimes.
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