In 1994, Congress passed and the President signed landmark legislation to fight violence against women. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) established new criminal provisions and key grant programs that improve the criminal and civil justice systems' response to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and direct critical services to victims. This comprehensive law sent a clear message across the nation: violence against women is not only wrong, it is a crime. In the past six years, the Violence Against Women Act has protected the safety of countless women and held offenders accountable for their actions.
But there is still much work to be done. Violence still devastates the lives of too many women and children. Nearly one-third of women murdered each year are killed by their intimate partners. Violence by intimates accounts for over 20% of all violent crime against women in America. Women were raped and sexually assaulted 307,000 times in 1998 alone, and approximately one million women are stalked each year.
Congress must act now to pass the Violence Against Women Act II (VAWA II) with the following key measures to sustain and increase our efforts to combat violence against women:
I. Secure and strengthen key VAWA grant programs
In passing VAWA II, Congress should reauthorize and improve the VAWA grant programs to help keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable.
VAWA and subsequent legislation authorized federal law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute interstate domestic violence, stalking, violations of proction orders, and related firearms violations. Over 250 prosecutions have been brought under these provisions. Now we must close loopholes that hamper our ability to most effectively prosecute these crimes and strengthen these laws to better protect Native American victims and those in dating relationships.
III. Protect immigrant women and children from domestic violence
VAWA included important protections for battered immigrant women that lessened the ability of abusers to use immigration laws to coerce, control, or intimidate them. Unfortunately, new federal laws have inadvertently undermined these provisions. VAWA II would restore these protections.
IV. Enhance the efficacy of protection orders
VAWA requires states and territories to give full faith and credit to protection orders issued by other jurisdictions. VAWA II would eliminate some persisting barriers to enforcement of such orders and would facilitate enforcement of tribal protection orders. In addition, VAWA II would remove a financial obstacle by requiring STOP grant recipients to ensure that victims do not have to pay filing or service costs for protection orders in both civil and criminal cases.
VI. Ensure that children remain in the custody of non-abusive parents
VAWA II contains two measures to reduce the impact of domestic violence on
children. First, it helps victims who flee abuse to obtain custody orders without
returning to dangerous jurisdictions. Second, it would establish grants for
supervised visitation centers. These centers protect victims and their children,
and minimize the danger of parental abduction, by providing secure environments
for visitation and exchange of children.
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