In 1994, the US Congress passed, with bi-partisan agreement, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, became the first Federal legislation to tackle the issue of domestic violence in the United States. Although certainly not perfect, this Act gave Federal resources and recognition to law enforcement’s efforts to protect victims of domestic violence. The Act also gave survivors of domestic violence pathways to remove themselves and their loved ones from violent relationships, such as funds to move into new homes/apartments and gave funds to train police officers and prosecutors across the country in domestic violence prevention.
Congress reauthorized this Act, again, with bi-partisan support, in 2000, 2005 and 2013. Now, however, this bi-partisan agreement regarding VAWA has seemingly vanished. The reauthorization bill currently in the US House of Representatives, would continue many of the current Act’s grants, while strengthening law enforcement’s ability to remove firearms and weapons from perpetrators of domestic violence, along with making it harder to evict survivors of domestic violence from public assisted housing due to the criminal acts of their abusers.
VAWA is set to expire September 4, 2018. Whether the reauthorization bill currently in the US House simply tries to implement common-sense solutions or is more radical then prior efforts, the fact that the US Congress has refused to even debate the bill is shameful. Without reauthorization, many survivors of domestic violence, along with the many individuals currently working to curb the scourge of domestic violence throughout this Country, will be left without the support necessary to continue the good fight. We here at Benjamin & Melmer, LLC, urge Congress to do their job and debate the current bill and then reauthorize VAWA, now.