Senate Passes Legislation to Protect Women from Abuse
Bill Contains Whitehouse Provision on Teen Dating Violence
Washington, DC – By a vote of 78-22, the U.S. Senate today passed legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark law originally passed in 1994 that protects women from domestic violence. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) was a cosponsor of the legislation, which also contains a provision he authored to prevent dating violence among teenagers.
“This law has saved women’s lives,” said Whitehouse. “Today’s action will strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence and give law enforcement in Rhode Island and across the nation important tools they need to prosecute abusers. I’m also proud that it includes my legislation to help children who are tragically exposed to domestic violence, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”
The Violence Against Women Act funds law enforcement efforts as well as educational and community programs to prevent domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and to provide assistance to victims. In addition to the Whitehouse teen dating violence provisions, the reauthorization bill makes several updates to the law, including an expanded focus on sexual assault; new tools to identify and manage high-risk offenders and prevent domestic violence homicides; more robust housing protections for victims; and new measures to promote accountability in the use of VAWA funds.
VAWA was last reauthorized in 2005. It must now be approved by the House of Representatives before the President can sign it into law.
In 2011, Whitehouse chaired a Judiciary subcommittee field hearing in Rhode Island to examine the problem of teen dating violence. His SMART Prevention Act, which was introduced after the hearing and is included in the VAWA reauthorization bill, would establish a new grant program for domestic violence education, with a focus on children exposed to violence in the home, and on students in middle school. The bill would also support programs to train youth mentors.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 10 percent of students across the country have reported being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year.
The SMART Prevention Act is supported by the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Futures Without Violence, Jewish Women International, Men Can Stop Rape, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the National Center for Victims of Crime, and the Love is Not Abuse Coalition.
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