A West Virginia Roundtable discussion on Tuesday brought together domestic violence survivors, law enforcement officers, and domestic violence service providers to discuss methods to reduce and prevent domestic violence. The discussion was hosted by Senator Jay Rockefeller, one of the original co- sponsors of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994. As reported in the Charleston Gazette, eleven women and one man have died during instances of domestic violence in the past two months in West Virginia, and state domestic violence programs have served over 18,000 people in the past year.
Tuesday’s discussion emphasized the importance of education and training in combatting domestic violence. The West Virginia State Journal reported that West Virginia was able to use VAWA money to train family court judges to better handle cases of domestic violence. At the discussion, Senator Rockefeller said, “If there was ever a time to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, it’s now. Yes, we have made progress in recent years, but for those who’ve died this year we haven’t done enough.”
On April 26, the Senate voted 68 to 31 to reauthorize VAWA. The Senate version of VAWA includes better access to law enforcement and services for Native American women, immigrant women, and LGBT victims. The House Judiciary Committee passed the Cantor/Adams VAWA reauthorization bill on May 8, which excludes many protections found in the Senate bill. This is the first time that an approved VAWA bill narrows or restricts protections. The Obama Administration has threatened to veto the House version.
In the almost 18 years since VAWA was initially passed, millions have benefited from its provisions. Between 1993 and 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined by 67%. VAWA established the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which receives over 22,000 calls each month and VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel each year.
State Journal 5/29/12; Charleston Gazette 5/29/12; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/17/12