Senate Finally Taking Action on Renewing Violence Against Women Act

The Senate is finally getting itself ready to move forward with renewing the Violence Against Women Act, something activists have been calling for since the law’s authorization lapsed in 2019.

Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post broke the story, writing that the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the subject next Tuesday titled “Renewing and Strengthening the Violence Against Women Act.” The hearing’s lone witness will be Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

President Joe Biden was an early supporter of the bill, and is considered one of his signature accomplishments. Since 1994, programs supported through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) legislation have infused federal dollars into state and local efforts to prevent, investigate, and prosecute domestic violence and sexual assault and help survivors rebuild their lives. The funding doesn’t just assist victims. It also assists law enforcement and prosecutors by providing training and enhancing resources for the investigation and prosecution of these violent crimes.

VAWA was the first major federal legislative package focused on stopping violence against women, and it has provided billions of dollars in grants for life-saving programs aimed at stemming domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Rates of domestic violence declined by more than 50% between 1993 and 2008 after VAWA became law, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics. If these funds become unavailable to states and local communities, it could stifle efforts to address these crimes.

VAWA’s importance to protect women from the effects of violence can’t be understated, particularly when it comes to the physical and emotional well-being of assault survivor. The first few days after a sexual assault are a crucial time for the survivor and the investigation. If a person seeks medical attention within four days of an assault, they may also undergo a sexual assault medical forensic exam (SAMFE). This exam collects and preserves important evidence—like DNA—that could identify a suspect and provide invaluable corroborating evidence to support the victim’s account of the crime. Before VAWA, victims could be billed by the health care provider that conducted their exam. No victim of any other crime is expected to pay for the collection and preservation of evidence.

The Senate’s hearing will be held on October 5th.



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