Today, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) voted for H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. H.R. 1585 is a bipartisan, robust, long-term Violence Against Women Act reauthorization that passed the House today.
Since its original passage in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has helped millions of women fight back against domestic violence and sexual assault by equipping them with legal assistance, expanding access to survivor support services, and funding education and prevention initiatives.
The protections and services guaranteed under VAWA are empowering women to come forward and report domestic and sexual violence and are helping to improve the criminal justice response to these crimes. However, the extent of domestic violence remains far too high. Experts estimate that one in three women in the U.S. still experience domestic violence.
“As a former domestic violence prosecutor and advocate for abused women, I have seen firsthand the impact of VAWA’s legal protections and survivor support services,” said Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. “Not only are we reauthorizing VAWA, we’re implementing important expansions to the law, like closing the boyfriend loophole to prevent abusers and stalkers from obtaining firearms. This bill tells survivors: you are not alone, you will always have a place to go, and you will always have people on your side. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act will save lives and I’m proud to support it.”
WATCH: Congresswoman Wexton speaks on the House floor in support of VAWA.
Like previous reauthorizations, H.R. 1585 makes some vital improvements to address gaps in current law, based on extensive consultation with victim service providers, law enforcement, and other experts.
The bill makes vital new investments in prevention:
- Increases the authorization for the Rape Prevention & Education Program (RPE) to $150 million a year from $50 million a year and specifically includes prevention of sexual harassment to its authorized uses. Demand for programs funded by RPE has skyrocketed with the #MeToo movement and the national focus on campus sexual assault, and a corresponding increase is critically necessary to meet the need of communities.
- Reauthorizes and updates the critical SMART Prevention Program to reduce dating violence, help children exposed to violence, and engage men in preventing violence.
The bill improves services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking:
- Reauthorizes key grants for programs providing services to the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
- Includes improvements in the grant program that provides services to the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who have disabilities.
- Makes improvements in the grant program that provides services for the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who are older Americans.
The bill gives law enforcement enhanced tools to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and to make our communities safer:
- Reauthorizes the critical STOP (Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors) grants and allows the grants to be used to develop law enforcement tools and protocols for preventing domestic violence homicides.
- Reauthorizes grants to improve the criminal justice response to domestic violence, focusing on implementation of offender accountability and homicide reduction.
- Authorizes pilot programs focused on increasing community safety by looking at alternative and community-based methods of survivor safety and perpetrator accountability.
The bill helps to better protect Native American women:
- Improves tribal access to federal crime information databases.
- Provides mechanisms to hold non-Indian predators who prey on Native women accountable.
- Reaffirms tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence, dating violence, and criminal violations of protective orders.
- Seeks jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of sexual assault, stalking, assault against law enforcement and correctional officers, obstruction of justice, and trafficking for any qualifying federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaskan natives.
The bill preserves and improves housing protections for survivors:
- Includes protections for survivors in federal public, subsidized, and assisted housing.
- Reauthorizes critical collaborative grants to increase the long-term stability of survivors who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
The bill supports survivors who need assistance rebuilding financially:
- Increases the authorization for the National Resource Center on Workplace Responses, which assists the victims of domestic and sexual violence.
- Protects employees from being fired because they are survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence.
- Protects survivors’ eligibility to receive Unemployment Compensation.
The bill strengthens the health care system’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking:
- Reauthorizes key grants to strengthen the health care system’s response.
- Broadens the reach of these grants to develop services to address the safety, medical, and mental health needs of survivors, while maintaining the grants’ local focus on providing funds to state domestic and sexual violence coalitions.
The bill protects the Office on Violence Against Women:
- Protects the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice (DOJ) from being de-emphasized, merged, or consolidated into any other DOJ office.
Finally, the bill closes some loopholes in current firearms laws in order to help prevent “intimate partner” homicides. Federal law already prohibits abusers who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors and abusers who are subject to most domestic violence protective orders from purchasing firearms. This bill closes some loopholes, as follows:
- Redefines “intimate partner” to include dating partner and former dating partner, thereby expanding firearms laws to prohibit persons convicted of dating violence from possessing firearms.
- Prohibits persons convicted of stalking misdemeanors from possessing firearms.
- Expands the current law that already prohibits those subject to most domestic violence protective orders from possessing a firearm to also include those subject to “ex parte” protective orders (protective orders issued before a hearing is held), but not until the notice and an opportunity to be heard have been provided to the respondent.