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Entries in Violence Against Women Act (8)

Thursday
Mar072013

Obama Signs Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act Thursday, expanding protections for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

“This is a country where everybody should be able to pursue their own measure of happiness and live their lives free from fear, no matter who you are, no matter who you love. That’s got to be our priority. That’s what today is about,” he said at a bill signing ceremony at the Interior Department.

“This is your day. This is the day of the advocates, the day of the survivors. This is your victory,” he said. “This victory shows that when the American people make their voices heard, Washington listens.”

The renewal of the 1994 legislation, championed by then Sen. Joe Biden, makes it easier to prosecute crimes against women, including domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking. The bill also extends protections to gays and lesbians and women of Native American tribal lands who are attacked or abused by non-tribal residents.

Obama noted that the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the legislation “makes me feel optimistic.”

“We’ve made incredible progress since 1994. But we cannot let up -- not when domestic violence still kills three women a day. Not when one in five women will be a victim of rape in their lifetime. Not when one in three women is abused by a partner,” he said.

“I promise you -- not just as your president, but as a son, and a husband, and a father -- I’m going to keep at this. I know Vice President Biden is going to keep at it. My administration is going to keep at it for as long as it takes,” he concluded.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb272013

House Likely to Pass Violence Against Women Reauthorization

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House is likely to pass a Senate-approved version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act on Thursday, sending the bill to President Obama for his signature.

A rule approved in the House Rules Committee Tuesday night allows an up-or-down vote first on a controversial House GOP version of the measure as a substitute amendment.  If that passes, then the GOP version becomes the underlying bill.  If it fails, the House would be left with an up-or-down vote on the Senate-passed bill.

With insufficient support for the GOP bill, the vote on the Senate bill appeared almost certain to pass with bipartisan support.

House Democrats earlier said they were not satisfied with the Republican-crafted version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, pledging to oppose it if it came up for a vote later this week in the House.

Speaking at the Capitol on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the Republican measure a step down from the Senate bill that passed with bipartisan support earlier this month, saying that “this bill is weaker than the Senate bill, weaker than the current law.”

House Democrats said that the Republican-proposed version up for consideration this week does not provide adequate protection for the sexual crime victims associated with human trafficking or members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Native American communities.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb262013

House Dems Rip GOP Redo of Violence Against Women Law

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats say they are not satisfied with the Republican-crafted version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, pledging to oppose it if it comes up for a vote later this week in the House.

Speaking at the Capitol Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the Republican measure a step down from the Senate bill that passed with bipartisan support earlier this month, saying that “this bill is weaker than the Senate bill, weaker than the current law.”

House Democrats said that the Republican-proposed version up for consideration this week does not provide adequate protection for the sexual crime victims associated with human trafficking or members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Native American communities.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., who has previously detailed her experience as a sexual assault victim on the House floor, asked her GOP colleagues Tuesday afternoon to “stand up for what is right and righteous, and reconsider this ill-conceived legislation, and work together with us to pass the bipartisan Senate bill.”

A House GOP leadership aide defended the latest Republican proposal, contending that House Democrats are using the politically contentious issue as a way to divide the Republican Party. Some members of the Republican conference have pressured leadership to allow a vote on the Senate bill rather than delay passage with another political fight.

The House GOP aide said the Republican leadership believes its bill makes significant improvements to the Senate bill, claiming that every woman is protected from discrimination.

The House could vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act as soon as Thursday. However, considering the divisions in the lower chamber, it is unclear which version – the Senate bill or House bill – would come up for consideration.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec182012

Clock Ticks on Renewal of Violence Against Women Act

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The House of Representatives may introduce its version of the Violence Against Women Act this week, as Congress attempts to reauthorize an 18-year-old law designed to strengthen legal protections against victims of domestic violence.

But prospects for the attempt to combine House Republican proposals for the law with the version passed by the Senate in April remain unclear as the year-end deadline draws near.

The two bills are relatively similar, with the exception of three additions favored on the Senate side: expanded protections for the gay community, undocumented immigrants, and Native American women. On Tuesday Democratic women in the Senate said a House bill would be dead on arrival without those aspects.

“A bill like that is an absolute non-starter in the Senate,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, pointing out their version passed with a strongly bipartisan 68-31 votes last spring.

Murray and her colleagues appealed to female members of the House GOP at a press conference Tuesday morning. Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina was more blunt in her remarks.

“A 911 operator doesn’t take that call and ask, ‘Who is that on on the other end of the line? Are you an immigrant? Are you gay? Are you on an Indian reservation? They respond to that call like everyone expects them to do,” she said.

Under current law, undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence can be given a temporary visa, partly as incentive to come forward to authorities. The House bill denies a Democratic attempt to raise the cap on the number of visas available for the program, and removes a standing ability for that victim to apply for permanent residency after three years.

Meanwhile, Native American women on Indian reservations are currently exempt from the law due to jurisdictional boundaries between state, federal, and tribal governments. The Senate bill would allow non-native perpetrators of abuse on those women to be tried in tribal courts if living on tribal land.

According to the U.S. Census, 50 percent of Native American married women are in relationships with non-Indian men.

Opponents of the Senate bill also cite duplicate programs and failure to expand protections against potential fraud as reason for concern, in addition to expanding costs. The Congressional Budget Office reports the Violence Against Women Act costs taxpayers $660 million annually to support.

Negotiations are being spearheaded by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Vice President Biden, who was involved with the original bill’s introduction in 1994, when he was a senator. But while most of the political rhetoric in Washington lately has been directed at the “fiscal cliff,” both parties have been relatively silent on this matter — a possible testament to how serious each side is about reaching an agreement.

Last week, 10 House Republicans signed a letter to that chamber’s leadership urging passage of a bill “similar to that which has already passed the Senate.” The letter was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, and was signed overwhelmingly by members of that party.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May162012

House Passes Violence Against Women Act

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The House voted Wednesday evening to approve the Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act, also known as VAWA, 222-205. The bill would have failed had it not won the support of six Democrats.

Twenty-three Republicans voted against the bill with most of the House Democratic Caucus.

House Speaker John Boehner said that the legislation provides the tools necessary “to prevent these crimes from occurring, protect the victims of these crimes when those efforts fail, and bring those responsible to justice.” He urged the Senate to work out the differences with the GOP bill in a timely manner in order to get a final bill to the president.

“In the 18 years since the Violence Against Women Act was first enacted, Congress has twice acted in a broad, bipartisan fashion to reauthorize the law. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats are, by their own admission, attempting to exploit the issue in hopes of generating ‘fodder’ for election-year campaign ads,” Boehner, R-Ohio, wrote in a statement after the vote. “It is not only a cynical ploy, but a dangerous one for those depending on the resources and protections provided under the law.”

Vice President Joe Biden also released a statement following the vote, contending that the GOP’s version, which the White House has threatened to veto, “will roll back critical provisions to help victims of abuse.”

“I urge Congress to come together to pass a bipartisan measure that protects all victims,” Biden stated. “VAWA has been improved each time it’s been reauthorized, and this time should be no different.”

One key disagreement was over a provision for Native Americans that was included in the Senate legislation. The GOP legislation enables battered Native Americans to file in U.S. District Court for a protection order against an abusive spouse, whether Indian or not, who commits abuse on Indian land. The White House and other Democrats prefer the Senate’s version, granting tribal courts the ability to prosecute offenders -- a provision Republicans believe is unconstitutional. Current law prevents non-Indians from being prosecuted by tribal courts for crimes committed on tribal land, as decided by the Supreme Court in 1978.

The Department of Justice recommended changing the law to give tribal courts jurisdiction, but the Republican bill does not go that far.

“The Senate version extends new protections to Native Americans and to all who are targeted, regardless of sexual orientation,” Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on the House floor before the vote. “Isn’t that our value, to protect every individual? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all individuals are endowed by their creator.’ Shouldn’t we protect all individuals? Not exclude some?”

With two different versions having passed each chamber of Congress, lawmakers will have to come together to reconcile the differences between the two bills.

The six Democrats voting with the GOP majority were Reps. John Barrow of Georgia, Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr262012

Senate Passes Violence Against Women Act

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate voted Thursday to approve the Violence Against Women Act, 68-31, sending a bipartisan bill to the House of Representatives, although the lower chamber does not intend to vote on that version of the bill.

The law, known on Capitol Hill as VAWA, was first enacted in 1994, reauthorized by Congress in 2000, and again reauthorized in December 2005. Authorization expired Sept. 30 last year, but money that was disbursed before the program expired has been used to cover the current fiscal year.

Opponents of the bill object to provisions that make federal grants to domestic violence organizations subject to their ability to prove they do not discriminate against homosexual and transgender victims. They complain that on Native American reservations, it shifts authority of tribal courts over domestic violence matters with non-tribal aggressors. They also object that it provides additional visas for battered undocumented women who agree to cooperate with law enforcement.

Currently, local tribal authorities say they struggle to prosecute domestic abuses cases of Native American women who are married to non-Native American men because they don’t have the force of law over non-tribe members. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cut a deal earlier Thursday to debate and vote on two Republican amendments and one Democratic amendment, although all three amendments failed to get enough support to change the bill.

Last month, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which she said “has strengthened communities” by reducing violence against women. House Republicans intend to move on their own version of legislation rather than the Senate-passed bill.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr182012

Biden Criticizes Holdup of Violence Against Women Bill

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Biden criticized Republicans for holding up the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) at an event Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

“When all that has occurred, the idea we’re still fighting about this in the Congress, that this is even a debatable issue, is truly sad,” Biden said.

And although he never directly named the GOP, his message and tone were clear.

“It’s not a reflection on the law. It’s a reflection on our inability in this town to deal with something that by now should just be over in terms of the debate about it,” he said at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. “We shouldn’t be having this debate”

VAWA, which first passed in 1993 and went into effect in 1994, was spearheaded by then-Senator Biden.

Since the passage of the bill in 1993, domestic violence has seen a decrease of 67 percent.

The event featured a panel that included Rev. Dr. Anne Marie Hunter, a director at Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence, who recounted her own story of fleeing a violent marriage in the late 1970s.

“I had no idea how to even name what was happening,” Hunter said, adding that at the time there were no support groups and that a therapist dismissed her claims and she had nowhere to turn for support.

The latest version of the bill was approved 10-8 down party lines by the Senate Judiciary Committee and it is expected to be considered by the full Senate later this week.

The holdup has been attributed to more changes than the past two reauthorizations had, including expanding visas available to undocumented immigrants who are victims of abuse.

Although the bill is expected to eventually pass Biden took the opportunity to question the hold-up.

“Just ask yourself, what message would be sent to every one of our daughters, every one imprisoned in her own home? Just ask yourself what it would say to them if the law’s not reauthorized?” Biden asked the crowd. What would it say to our daughters, our wives, our mothers, about whether or not they are entitled to respect and their government believes they’re entitled to be free of violence and abuse?”

On Wednesday President Obama signed a memorandum that directs federal agencies to develop policies for the effects of domestic violence, that will not only help victims, but will also serve as a model for the private sector.

Just this month the president declared April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.  Saying in a statement that during the month “we rededicate ourselves to breaking the cycle of violence that threatens lives, erodes communities, and weakens our country.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar282012

Rep. Gwen Moore Recounts Own Rape and Sexual Assault

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- As House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act Wednesday, one of her congressional colleagues personalized the issue on the House floor by recounting her own experiences with domestic violence.

Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., who joined Pelosi in introducing the legislation, said, “Violence against women is as American as apple pie.”

“Domestic violence has been a thread throughout my personal life -- up to and including being a child repeatedly sexually assaulted, up to and including being an adult who’s been raped.”

Aides close to the Democratic congresswoman say Moore was sexually molested by a family friend repeatedly as a child. Moore also says she was a victim of date rape later as a young woman, when her assailant stole her underwear to show off as a trophy to friends.

“This is what American women are facing,” Moore said. “This is not a partisan issue and it would be very, very devastating to women of all colors, creeds and sexual orientations for us not to address this.”

Pelosi underlined the “critical, life-saving support to victims of violence” that the legislation has provided over the last 18 years through funding for groups and services that help victims of domestic abuse.

“All Americans are entitled to feel safe in their workplace, in their homes, and walking on our streets,” Pelosi said. “Yet too many women continue to live in fear, and that is why we must reauthorize and strengthen and pass the Violence Against Women Act.”

Democrats failed a short time later Wednesday afternoon in a procedural stunt to attach reauthorization to a vote on the Republican budget blueprint.

Pelosi said that since the bill was first signed into law by President Clinton, the legislation “has strengthened communities” by reducing violence against women.

“This law has helped ensure that more victims report domestic violence to the police, that the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has been decreased by 53 percent, in that period of time,” she said. “Rape crisis centers have been able to keep their doors open [and] law enforcement and victims’ services providers are working together to better meet the needs of victims.”

Opponents of the bill object to provisions that make federal grants to domestic violence organizations subject to their ability to prove they do not discriminate against homosexual and transgender victims.  They complain that on Native American reservations, it shifts authority of tribal courts over domestic violence matters with non-tribal aggressors. They also object that it provides additional visas for battered undocumented women who agree to cooperate with law enforcement.

“Unfortunately violence is not limited to just Democrats or just Republicans or just blacks or just whites,” Moore, the Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus, said. “It’s not limited to heterosexual relationships, but there are relationships of all kinds that are exposed to domestic violence.”

Currently, local tribal authorities say they struggle to prosecute domestic abuse cases of Native American women who are married to non-Native American men because they don’t have the force of law over non-tribe members.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, declined to comment directly on the Democrats’ proposal, but told reporters that there is bipartisan support for a reauthorization of the legislation, and House Republicans will move forward with their own version before current funding expires.

“The issues that were raised in the Senate did not deal with the underlying bill itself,” McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said. “You’re going to find that there is bipartisan support for the bill.”

The law was first reauthorized by Congress in 2000, and again in December 2005. Authorization expired Sept. 30 last year but money that was disbursed before the program expired has been used to cover the current fiscal year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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