WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following months of debates and failure to agree, the United States Senate passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 on Tuesday.
"Everyone deserves to be safe from abuse. The resources provided though the reauthorization of VAWA can literally save lives," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. "Today, I'm calling on the House of Representatives to step up to the plate, pass this bill and join us in protecting women, children and all victims of domestic violence."
Vice President Joe Biden said the measure passed with "overwhelming bipartisan support" and the law has been effective in protecting individuals and families from domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
"As the former president of a YWCA that is a leader in combating domestic violence, this is an issue I care very deeply about," U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said. "Especially in communities like West Virginia where victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in rural and remote communities face unique obstacles in their efforts to escape abusive and dangerous relationships, support provided by VAWA can literally be lifesaving."
The VAWA, which has been law since 1994, addresses domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes through formula and competitive grants to state, local and tribal governments; non-profit organizations; and colleges and universities.
VAWA expired in 2011 and has yet to be reauthorized by Congress. Rockefeller was an original co-sponsor of the original bill in 1994, a co-sponsor of successful reauthorizations of the law in 2000 and 2005 and co-sponsored it again last year. Despite successful passage in the Senate last Congress, the VAWA reauthorization was effectively blocked by the Republican-led House of Representatives. Rockefeller is co-sponsor of the new 2013 reauthorization as well.
With the Senate's passage, members of both parties have encouraged members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the measure quickly.
Capito said she urges House leaders to "immediately" reauthorize the act while Biden asked that the House renew the law to assist victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and hold offenders accountable for their crimes.
"Delay isn't an option when three women are still killed by their husbands or boyfriends every day. Delay isn't an option when countless women still live in fear of abuse, and when one in five have been victims of rape," Biden stated. "This issue should be beyond debate the House should follow the Senate's lead and pass the Violence Against Women Act right away."
More than 1,300 West Virginians-including more than 500 children-are housed in one of 14 in-state domestic violence shelters that serve all 55 counties. In 2011, the Family Crisis and Intervention Center had 3,600 contacts with clients in its eight county service area in their residential shelter and outside with men, women and children of all ages, said Emily Larkins, director of services for the center, in June 2012.