Lawmakers on both sides launch new push on violence against women law

A bipartisan group of lawmakers will push in 2022 for a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for the first time in nearly a decade following an increase in domestic violence cases during the pandemic.

Senator Lisa Murkowksi (R-Ala.), Who announced a bipartisan agreement on a framework for the re-authorization of VAWA earlier this month with Sens. Diane finsteinDianne Emiel Feinstein Home travel vaccine mandate back in spotlight Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid Five areas where Biden faces pressure to do more on COVID-19 PLUS (D-California), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOvernight Defense & National Security – The Next Fight for Military Justice Senators Reach Agreement on Framework for Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act Manchin faces pressure from Gillibrand, other colleagues in paid family leave PLUS (R-Iowa) and Dick durbinDick DurbinBiden and lawmakers mourn Harry Reid Longtime Senate political boxer and majority leader Harry Reid dies Ukrainian president, US lawmakers squeeze amid tensions with Russia MORE (D-Ill.) Said lawmakers hope to introduce the legislation in the coming weeks.

“I think what we’re trying to do is we want to get a strong bipartisan bill introduced in January,” Murkowkski said.

“We have strong advocates behind us across the country who have helped us in this area. We want to continue this momentum and we want to update the law, ”she added.

If passed, it would be the first time in nearly nine years that VAWA, a landmark piece of legislation at the time, Sen. Joe bidenJoe Biden Kentucky Governor declares state of emergency after powerful storm Seven most vulnerable governors to be re-elected in 2022 At least 20 states to raise minimum wage from Saturday MORE (D-Del.) Defended which was made law in 1994, has been re-authorized.

VAWA, which has been reauthorized three times since taking effect, seeks to strengthen the response to domestic violence at multiple levels of government, as well as efforts to address dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Its last authorization, which was approved by Congress in 2013, expired five years later after lawmakers failed to renew it. At the time, credit authorizations for VAWA programs had lapsed, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Lawmakers continued to approve program funding in annual spending bills. But until VAWA is reauthorized, advocates say the measure, which is usually updated when its authorization is renewed, will not meet the needs of the victims it is designed to protect.

“Whenever we re-authorize the violence against women law since it was first authorized in 1994, we really build on the progress of previous years,” said Terri Poore, policy director of the National Alliance for Women. ending sexual violence, in an interview about it. the week. She added that leaders have learned a lot about how to tackle violence in the intervening years from past authorizations.

Poore noted that when the bill was first passed, “there weren’t a lot of provisions to deal specifically with sexual assault, and the next authorization really tried to address these issues.”

“Whenever the bill is reauthorized, advocates and survivors have an opportunity to reflect on it, review it and see what changes need to be made to truly meet all of the needs of all survivors to be in. security and have the opportunity to heal and be protected, ”said Poore.

Among the proposals detailed in the framework announced by the four days of senators include provisions aimed at strengthening the prevention of rape and the protection of young survivors, as well as widening access to emergency housing assistance for them. survivors.

Advocates say the legislation would come at a critical time after the release of data showing an increase in domestic cases in parts of the United States shortly after much of the country stranded during the year’s pandemic last.

“People are more at home with fewer resources,” said Poore. “I think the domestic violence programs and the sexual assault programs have tried to make the transition to meet all survivors where they are. But of course people are more at home, so some of the ways out and freeing themselves have been more difficult. “

The framework announcement also describes a provision that would target what advocates and lawmakers have called the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by prohibiting those convicted of a domestic violence offense against a dating partner from owning or to buy guns or ammunition.

Lawmakers said the provision would only apply to protection orders and sentences passed after the new VAWA reauthorization was enacted.

The move marks the latest attempt by lawmakers to tackle the apparent loophole in recent years.

Earlier this year, the House voted to pass a law re-authorizing VAWA that would prevent dating partners from buying or owning firearms if convicted of domestic violence or abuse, instead of simply enforcing the law. restriction to spouses or formerly married partners.

However, legislation stagnated in the Senate after opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which attacked a similar provision included in another bill passed by the House to re-authorize VAWA in 2019, which also hit a roadblock. driver in the upper room at the time.

In a statement to the Detroit News earlier this year, the gun rights group lambasted the provision proposed by Rep. Debbie dingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann Dingell Michigan adopts a congressional card that pits two incumbent Democrats against each other. (D-Mich.), Saying the legislation would restrict the rights of people with “gun control provisions”.

While it’s not clear what the NRA’s position is on the current framework, advocates and lawmakers alike say the legislation has been carefully scrutinized.

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment.

Murkowski, who described herself with Ernst as “strong supporters of the Second Amendment,” said lawmakers “worked hard to make sure there were these protections” in their legislation.

Rachel Graber, director of public policy at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), also said the way the framework addresses the boyfriend loophole differs from legislation passed by the House some time ago. month.

“The House bill completely closes the dating partner loophole, while the Senate bill only partially closes it,” Graber said.

“The Senate bill adds dating partners to existing bans on domestic violence, but only for those convicted of dating abuse after the bill comes into force or who are the subject of” protection orders issued after the date of promulgation. So it’s not a complete solution, but it’s a partial solution, and it will save lives, ”she said.

Additional provisions in the framework include those to expand programs to ensure VAWA provides access to survivors in rural areas, as well as survivors “in need of culturally specific services”, among others.

Ruth Glenn, CEO of NCADV, said these measures underscore the importance of understanding the different needs of survivors and of supporting black and brown organizations, noting “sometimes the community can provide the best service based on standards. cultural and cultural resources ”.

Murkowski, whose population of the state is among those most of whose residents identify as Native American or Alaska Native, added that there are “significant” tribal provisions within the framework. .

“We incorporated the protections of Native Americans, Native Americans and tribes… I was more immediately involved in this area, although I was involved in 2013 and have been involved in the past because it’s a big problem in my condition, ”she said. .

A 2016 study funded by the National Institute of Justice found that more than 80% of Native American and Native Alaskan women have experienced violence in their lifetime, more than half of whom said they had experienced sexual violence or physical from an intimate partner.

In Alaska, where American Indians and Native Alaskan residents make up nearly a fifth of the state’s population, a 2020 survey by the University of Alaska Justice Center in Anchorage (UAA ) and other partners estimated that nearly three-fifths of Alaskan women had experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, or both in their lifetime. The figure represents a jump of 14.7% from a previous survey carried out five years earlier.

“Our domestic violence statistics are just awful,” Mrkowski said.

Glenn, who said her organization had been in contact with lawmakers behind the framework of the plans, added that she believed the measure, which lawmakers say is also aimed at expanding access and resources for LGBT survivors , “will enable us as a nation” to ensure trans women are “supported and receiving services.”

“We are very much aware as a nation that trans women in particular have really entered into violence, specific types of violence, which have not always been addressed,” she said.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, this year at least 50 transgender and gender nonconforming people were “fatally shot or killed by other violent means.”

The data comes a year after the organization reported a record 44 fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people, many of whom the group said are black and Latin transgender women.

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