(BELLEVUE, WA)- Today in Bellevue, U.S. Senator Patty Murray held a roundtable discussion with domestic violence advocates about her efforts to renew and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is set to expire in September 2005.
VAWA, first passed in 1994, created a coordinated strategy to provide domestic violence victims with the services they need to escape violent relationships. Senator Murray invited advocates to the discussion so she could update them on her work in the Senate and to hear from them about the current challenges.
"Not long ago, domestic violence was considered a family problem," Murray said. "Today, thanks to VAWA, it is recognized as a threat to the entire community."
At the roundtable held at Bellevue City Hall, Senator Murray heard from advocates, as well as, a domestic violence survivor. Participants included: Merril Cousin (Executive Director, King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence), Dr. Amy Bonomi of Group Health Cooperative, Lindsay Palmer (Director of Education, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center), and Mary, a domestic violence survivor.
They stressed the importance of expanding immigration and sexual assault services and the need for a national healthcare strategy to address domestic violence. Murray informed the attendees that the upcoming reauthorization will address many of their concerns.
"The reauthorization bill will include for the first time a healthcare strategy that will train healthcare providers and medical students on how to recognize and identify domestic violence," Murray said. "It will provide grants to facilitate the screening of women for exposure to domestic and sexual violence, and will include the Sexual Assault services Act, which provides critical funding for direct services for sexual assault victims, including 24 hour emergency and support services."
Murray also emphasized that the VAWA reauthorization bill will expand protections for immigrant victims and will address the inequities in housing for victims, from helping victims to find housing to training housing providers on how to respond to victims. Beyond these improvements, Murray announced that she will re-introduce her "SAFE Act," which will address the economic barriers that women face.
"My bill will include thirty days of leave to allow victims to address domestic violence and will allow them to collect unemployment insurance if they are fired or have to leave their job because of abuse," Murray said. "It will prevent insurance discrimination by insurance companies, an important issue that many of you worked on with for a long time, and also will address the punitive elements of the welfare system that penalize victims when they try to flee a dangerous situation."
Murray announced that she hopes to introduce the SAFE Act as a supplement to the VAWA bill introduced by Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) in the Senate.
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