Enacted in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was the first federal law responding to our nation’s crisis of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. On March 17, the US House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 (HR 1620), cosponsored by Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (R-TX), Jerry Nadler (D-TX), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). The House-passed bill is a modest measure to build on and continue the work of VAWA that includes narrowly focused enhancements to address gaps identified by survivors and direct service providers. Among many provisions, the bill would maintain vital protections for all survivors; support communities of color; invest in prevention; end impunity for non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse co-occurring with domestic violence, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands; improve access to safe housing and economic independence, and protect dating violence from abusers with firearms. It is time for the Senate to pass a companion bill to HR 1620 to ensure critical programs and supports for survivors.
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