04.19.12

Whitehouse Calls for Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act

Bill Contains RI Senator’s Legislation to Address Teen Dating Violence

Washington, DC – This month the U.S. Senate is expected to take up 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) is a cosponsor of the reauthorization measure, which also contains legislation he authored to prevent dating violence among teenagers.

“We should move swiftly to pass this important legislation,” Whitehouse said today.  “As Rhode Island’s Attorney General, I saw first-hand how the Violence Against Women Act protects victims of domestic violence, provides crucial services to those in need, and holds batterers accountable.  By reauthorizing this law, we will ensure that women and families in Rhode Island and across the country continue to receive these important protections.”

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.  The reauthorization has 60 Senate cosponsors.

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 and coordinate services for victims.

“Senator Whitehouse’s leadership on violence against women has been steadfast throughout his years in public service, and his commitment to reauthorizing this important legislation is commendable,” said Deborah DeBare, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We are so proud that Senator Whitehouse takes these issues so seriously and is willing to champion them in the Senate.”

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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