On Wednesday, March 13, the House Judiciary Committee approved a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), HR 1585. The legislation, sponsored by Congressperson Karen Bass (D-CA) would reauthorize the historic law that was created as part of the 1994 crime bill.
Democrats had sought more specific improvements to the law rather than a quick extension attached to various budget contining resolutions of the December to February period.
After debates over several amendments it passed by a vote of 22 to 11 along party lines. The more than 90 cosponsors of the legislation highlight several imropvements in the bill:
• Enhances judicial and law enforcement tools, through reauthorization of the STOP Grants, authorizing the use of stop grants to develop and enforce firearm surrender policies;
• Expands permissible use of grant funding for programs focused on increasing survivor/law enforcement/community safety, and legal assistance for dependent children in appropriate circumstances
• Improves services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking;
• Provides services, protection, and justice for young victims of violence, including extending the Rape Prevention and Education grant program, addressing bullying of young people, improving grants focused on prevention education for students, and expanding;
• Reauthorizes and updates the SMART Prevention Program to reduce dating violence, help children exposed to violence, and engage men in preventing violence;
• Expands grants under the Public Health Service Act to support implementation of training programs to improve the capacity of early childhood programs to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking among the families they serve;
• Preserves and expands housing protections for survivors;
• Helps prevent “intimate partner” homicides, by including provisions expanding firearms laws to prohibit persons convicted of dating violence from possessing firearms, prohibiting persons convicted of misdemeanor stalking from possessing firearms, and prohibiting individuals subject to ex parte protective orders from possessing firearms;
• Helps protect Native American women by including provisions to improve tribal access to federal crime information databases and reaffirming tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and trafficking for all federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaskan Natives; and
• Protects the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice from being de-emphasized, merged, or consolidated into any other DOJ office.