Women’s rights are human rights and fighting to guarantee and protect human rights has always been one of my top priorities. That’s why it was so important for the Senate to act and pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012, S. 1925, often referred to as VAWA.
I was an early co-sponsor of VAWA — first enacted in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005 with unanimous Senate support both times. It provides important legal, civil, economic and social safeguards for victims of domestic violence, particularly women. VAWA has not only transformed our criminal justice system, but it also has inspired many state and local governments to enact similar legislation, helping to ensure greater implementation of this law.
Historically, reauthorization of VAWA has always had strong, bipartisan support. In fact, S. 1925, was introduced in 2011 by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) to provide more resources to reduce domestic homicides and sexual assaults, strengthen housing protections for domestic violence victims and focus more attention on the high rates of violence among teens and young adults.
It is hard to understand why some of my colleagues have opposed the reauthorization of legislation with the goal of curbing domestic violence. Domestic abuse is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue. In fact, in addition to Senator Crapo’s co-sponsorship of the bill, it also has the support of eight other Republican senators.
To some of my colleagues and others who opposed reauthorizing VAWA because it would extend protections to certain groups or categories, I want to remind them just how successful the VAWA has been. Since initial passage in 1994, there has been a 51 percent increase in the reporting of domestic and sexual assaults on women. There has also been a 34 percent reduction in the number of women killed by a partner. From 1994 to 2000, the VAWA saved American taxpayers more than $14 million.
I recently visited House of Ruth in Baltimore, a domestic violence shelter that provides a safe environment to victims of domestic and sexual assault. Since opening 35 years ago, House of Ruth has provided often life-saving shelter to thousands of women and children.
The House of Ruth and other similar shelters are critical in the fight against domestic abuse. I believe we must make the safety and well-being of women and families — and of any individual who is being abused — a top priority in our nation. I am pleased by Senate passage of VAWA and we need to remain united in the fight to stop domestic abuse – of anyone.