WASHINGTON — Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) on Feb. 28 released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed the strengthened Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with overwhelming bipartisan support:
“I am glad to see the House has finally reauthorized the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act that includes increased protections for women and families. Since it was first passed in 1994, VAWA has literally saved lives through public awareness, increased incident reporting and better services and protections.
“The updates made by this legislation include protections for both non-citizen immigrants and LGBT victims of abuse, as well as improvements to sexual assault reporting on college campuses. The law also empowers tribal governments to more easily prosecute non-native abusers who commit crimes on tribal lands.
“The protections for native, immigrant and LGBT victims are critical components of this legislation, and I am pleased to see the House of Representatives come together and include these protections. I urge President Obama to quickly sign this legislation.”
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) voted in favor of the Senate bill and against the House GOP substitute.
“I am happy to vote in support of this version of the Violence Against Women Act, which received bipartisan support in the Senate, because it includes vital protections for all women,” she said. “Excluding certain groups, whether it is members of the LGBT community, Native Americans, immigrants, or victims of human trafficking, violates the core principle that we stand in support of the safety and security of all American families. I only wish that we were allowed to vote on VAWA sooner.
“Women across America are the victims of violence every day, and it is only through our continued vigilance and commitment to action that we can break these cycles and provide the safe community that every woman deserves. Standing up for women is not a political act; it is a statement about our respect for human rights. I am proud to have cast this vote today.”
The House GOP substitute would have eliminated provisions included in the Senate bill, such as domestic violence protections for LGBT victims, equal treatment of Indian and non-Indian offenders on tribal lands, and requiring colleges and universities to provide students with information about sexual assault in order to improve services for student victims. The amendment would have also removed the reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which provides critical protections and services for victims of human trafficking.
A coalition of more than 1,300 organizations – including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Organization for Women, and the YWCA USA – opposed the House GOP substitute.
The House passed the Senate bill by a vote of 286-138. The measure now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said in a statement, “The passage of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization is a victory for all Americans. VAWA extends protections to victims from domestic violence to include Native Americans, immigrants, and LGBT Americans, some of the groups that are in most need of protection against violence. This landmark legislation demonstrates the American people’s commitment to the lives of all who suffer from domestic violence – victims, their families, victims’ advocates, law enforcement, and prosecutors – and ensures we can truly stop violence against women.
“The bipartisan passage of the Violence Against Women Act is an example of the good that can be achieved when members on both sides of the aisle work together to help their fellow citizens.”
On Feb. 27, Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) spoke on the House floor in favor of passage of the Senate version of the VAWA: “Early in my career, one my first experiences was working with victims of domestic violence who were struggling and in desperate need of help. Having personally helped victims fill out VAWA petitions, so they wouldn’t be forced to live under the same roof as their abusers, I’ve seen first-hand the long-term human devastation this kind of violence can cause and we cannot continue to ignore its toll on women and families.
“VAWA funds have trained over 500,000 law enforcement and judicial officers on the realities of domestic and sexual violence, helping to protect survivors across the country. VAWA saves money and it saves lives.
“Since VAWA was first enacted, over 600 state laws have been passed to combat domestic violence and reported incidents of violence have decreased by 60%. Despite these successes, there is much work to be done, and all victims of domestic violence – including those in the LGBT community and those without documentation – must feel safe seeking help from our criminal justice system.”