April 26, 2012

Senate Passes Legislation to Protect Women from Abuse

Bill Contains Whitehouse Provision on Teen Dating Violence

Washington, DC – 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.

“In Rhode Island and across the country, the Violence Against Women Act continues to support essential tools for preventing and responding to domestic violence,” Whitehouse said in a statement submitted to the Congressional Record.  “I urge all of my colleagues to support reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, so that we can keep working toward a country that is free of this scourge.”

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 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.

Last year 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.

“The SMART Prevention Act will sustain the work we have started in Rhode Island to provide schools with the educational programming so students and parents can recognize the signs of teen dating violence but also act to be proactive and prevent this serious issue,” said Ann Burke, who testified at Whitehouse’s hearing and serves as President of the Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Foundation.   “By successfully getting this teen dating violence prevention program into the larger Violence Against Women Act, Senator Whitehouse will affect the lives of teens and adults for years to come.”

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.

The full text of Whitehouse’s remarks from today can be viewed here.


Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921