HARTFORD — It has been more than two years since the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired, jeopardizing essential funding and services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. In Connecticut, that means that services for more than 57,000 victims of domestic violence and 7,000-plus victims of sexual assault could be at risk.
On February 19, representatives of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS), and US Representative John Larson hosted a roundtable discussion on VAWA, the cornerstone of the nation’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
“Since its passage, the Violence Against Women Act has helped countless women and families across the country, providing programs and services vital to supporting the victims of domestic violence and the work of eliminating such violence from our national landscape,” said Congressman Larson. “As our nation looks to end violence in all its forms, this legislation should remain a priority for members on both sides of the aisle. Congress must put politics aside and bring this legislation to a vote so we can continue to lower the rate of domestic violence, and ensure victims are able to receive the help they need.”
“The Violence Against Women Act is critical to our work with victims of domestic violence,” said Karen Jarmoc, executive director, CCADV. “It funds life-saving services including 24-hour crisis response, safety planning, and emergency shelter. Victims of family violence in Connecticut are safer because of VAWA and we urge its swift passage and implementation.”
“Every day, men, women, and children who have survived sexual assault receive support and advocacy services that would simply not be available without the Violence Against Women Act,” said Laura Cordes, Executive Director CONNSACS. “The Violence Against Women Act has allowed us to design vital outreach projects to address sexual violence in specific communities, including college students, the elderly, and Connecticut’s growing Latino population. We need the House to follow the Senate’s example and reauthorize VAWA without further delay.”
Earlier this month, the US Senate passed a strong bipartisan measure (S 47) for reauthorization that now awaits action in the House. A similar bill (HR 11) has also been introduced in the House and co-sponsored by Congressman Larson and the rest of the Connecticut delegation. Reauthorization provides an opportunity to build upon the successes of the current law by expanding protections for Native Americans, immigrants, and LGBT victims.
First authorized in 1994, VAWA has created a comprehensive and coordinated community response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. As a result of this vital measure, community-based agencies have provided enhanced services that keep victims safe and the criminal justice system has held more offenders accountable for their actions. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, VAWA saved $12.6 billion nationwide within six years of implementation.
While VAWA has historically had bipartisan support and was easily reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, it expired in 2011 amid partisan debate in Washington, D.C. Last year, some members of Congress blocked reauthorization and sought to impose unnecessary and costly audit requirements on providers that would result in fewer dollars for direct services.
Other roundtable participants included State Representative Mae Flexer (D-Killingly); Connecticut Chief State’s Attorney Kevin T. Kane; Connecticut Office of Policy & Management Under Secretary Mike Lawlor; Kara Hart, Greater Hartford Legal Aid; Cathy Zeiner, Safe Futures (New London); and Barbara Spiegel, Susan B. Anthony Project (Torrington).