A bipartisan group of senators aims to introduce a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) when the Senate reconvenes this month.
Illinois Senator Dick Durbin joins Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, a domestic violence survivor herself, and California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski in reaching a bipartisan framework to reauthorize and modernize VAWA. The previously reauthorized bill expired in 2019.
The current draft would strengthen rape prevention and education efforts and expand and authorize programs to ensure access to survivors in rural areas, those who seek culturally specific services, and LGBT survivors. It also builds on the 2013 reauthorization by expanding criminal jurisdiction to tribal courts to cover non-Native perpetrators of sexual violence and other offenses.
Durbin says the statistics about violence against women are alarming, and the bill provides critical support to all women around the country: “We are coming together on supporting the simple premise that VAWA will save lives. We need to ensure every survivor, whether they live in rural Alaska or urban Illinois, can reach out for a lifeline in a moment of crisis. It is a statistic that should shock us all. Nearly 1 in 3 women living today, nearly 1 in 3, have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. That finding came from the WHO surveying women in 160 countries across the globe. It proves that this crisis of sexual and domestic violence touches every community in the world, but our responsibility first, is here at home.”
The reauthorization has been stalled previously by controversial provisions like stricter gun restrictions, which Republicans oppose. Ernst, a Republican, says that the bill isn’t a gun control bill but rather a violence against women bill. The four-member group plans to reintroduce the bi-partisan reauthorization when Congress returns to session this month.