OLYMPIA – Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna yesterday joined 52 of his fellow state and territorial attorneys general in calling on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to ensure that vital programs to keep women and families safe continue uninterrupted.
“The Violence Against Women Act was a huge leap forward in acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as serious crimes,” McKenna said. “It strengthened federal penalties for sex offenders and when it was reauthorized in 2000, it created new protections for stalking victims. These are among the reasons we’re calling for its renewal.”
McKenna has made the fight against domestic violence a major focus. Last week he announced a bill to expand state protections for stalking victims.
In their letter to Congress, the attorneys general note that since the initial passage of VAWA in 1994, the national response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking has been transformed. Crimes that used to be considered private family matters have been brought out of the shadows with dramatic results. But while rates of domestic violence have dropped by more than 50 percent over 17 years, the issues addressed by VAWA are still relevant. Tragically, on average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day.
Citing the need to maintain services to victims and families on the local, state, and federal level, the attorneys general urged Congress to reauthorize VAWA for the first time since 2006. They note that reauthorization would not only allow existing programs to continue, but would also provide for the development of new initiatives, including:
- Addressing the high rates of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault among women aged 16-24. Programs will combat tolerant youth attitudes toward violence and break the cycle in which women who experience abuse as teens are more likely to be victimized as adults.
- Improving responses to sexual assault across disciplines by implementing best practices, training, and communication tools among healthcare, law enforcement, and legal services providers.
- Preventing domestic violence homicides by enhancing training for law enforcement, advocates, and others who interact with those at risk. A growing number of experts and researchers agree that more homicides are preventable if warning signs are better identified.
The attorneys general closed their letter to Congress by recalling that when VAWA was first passed in 1994, it was recognition that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are pervasive issues affecting individuals and families across the nation. Reauthorizing VAWA, the Attorneys General say, will build on that progress and save countless lives.
The Attorneys General signing on to the letter are from: American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725