Congress Completes Work on Violence Against Women Act

The House of Representatives passed the Violence Against Women Act of 2005 on Saturday, December 17, just one day after the Senate passed the identical bill. "We have repeatedly asked Congress to make our homes safer before heading to their homes for the holidays," said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler, "and we are very pleased that they did. Now, we ask President Bush to quickly sign this bill into law."

"Generations of Americans will benefit from the groundbreaking initiatives in this legislation," Soler continued. "This is a tremendous victory for the community that has worked tirelessly to pass this bill, for every family that has been touched by violence, and for the country."

Advocates have been working for more than a year to convince Congress to pass a strong Violence Against Women Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005) that continues successful programs and funds promising new ones. Last week, Amnesty International, the National Organization for Women, Break the Cycle and the Sheila Wellstone Institute delivered 100,000 signatures to Congress on petitions urging speedy passage of the bill. They prevailed.

VAWA 2005 is landmark legislation that funds initiatives to help children exposed to violence, train health care providers to support victims of abuse, work with men as allies to help teach the next generation that violence is wrong, and provide crisis services for victims of rape and sexual assault. It also continues longstanding efforts to improve the law enforcement response to violence against women and provide supportive services, such as transitional housing, to women and children forced to leave their homes because of violence.

"We thank Senators Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) for their strong, unwavering leadership on this bill," Soler said. "And we thank Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) for championing the prevention initiative, and Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) the health provisions."

Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle praised the bill. "The reauthorization of VAWA will continue the tradition of changing attitudes toward domestic violence and will expand its focus to changing attitudes toward other violent crimes including dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking," Sensenbrenner said.

This bill "includes new funds for training health professionals to recognize and respond to domestic and sexual violence, and to help public officials recognize the need as well," Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) said. "The research funds provided by the bill are vital, because we need the best possible interventions in health care settings to prevent future violence."

"The reauthorization of VAWA is critical to protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault," Congresswoman Lofgren said.

The Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994, and reauthorized in 2000. It expired on September 30.

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