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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate health committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), introduced the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 (VAWA), a companion version of legislation aimed at strengthening protections for women against domestic violence and sexual assault which has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, which would reauthorize VAWA through 2024, preserves advancements made in previous reauthorizations and includes a number of additional improvements to the current law.

“When women and families experiencing domestic violence have the tools and protections to seek justice, stay safe, and regain independence, it’s not only life-changing, it can be life-saving—so it is absolutely critical that we get this done,” said Senator Murray. “Republicans and Democrats in the House sent this bill to the Senate with strong bipartisan support and I’m going to keep pushing to make sure we act to give survivors in Washington state and across the country the resources they need.”    

“Throughout our country, violence against women is reaching epidemic levels, and we need to give new tools to address this unbelievable problem,” Senator Cantwell said. “It’s time that we hold a vote and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act to help women throughout the United States.”

In 2013, Senator Murray, a coauthor of the original Violence Against Women Act, helped lead efforts in Congress to reauthorize VAWA and expand protections and resources for more women in at-risk communities, including tribal women, LGBTQIA+ people, immigrants, and women on college campuses. During the 2013 reauthorization fight, Senator Cantwell also championed key provisions that strengthened protections for victims in Tribal communities, and both Senators have continually pushed for legislation to combat the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Key provisions in the bill:

  • Protects Native American women by improving tribal access to federal crime information databases and reaffirming tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking for all federally recognized Indian tribes and Alaskan Natives.
  • Explicitly states that grant recipients are allowed to train staff and others on identifying and stopping discrimination against LGBT individuals. Service providers currently remain uncertain about whether they can use grants to train for this.
  • Reauthorizes and updates the SMART Prevention Program to reduce dating violence, help children who have been exposed to violence and engage men in preventing violence.
  • Expands grants under the Public Health Service Act to support implementation of training programs to improve the capacity of early childhood programs to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking among the families they serve.
  • Provides services, protection and justice for young victims of violence, including extending the Rape Prevention and Education grant program, addressing bullying of young people, improving grants focused on prevention education for students and expanding relevant training for school-based and campus health centers.
  • Preserves and expands housing protections for survivors.
  • Provides economic security assistance for survivors by reauthorizing the National Resource Center on Workplace Responses. Protects employees from being fired because they are survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence and protects survivors’ eligibility to receive unemployment insurance.
  • Enhances judicial and law enforcement tools through reauthorization of the Justice Department’s STOP Violence Against Women Formula Program, known as the STOP Program. Authorizes the use of STOP Program grants to expand the use of grant funding for programs focused on increasing survivor, law enforcement and community safety; increase legal assistance for dependent children in appropriate circumstances; and develop and enforce firearm surrender policies.
  • Protects the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women from being merged or consolidated into any other Justice Department office.
  • Helps prevent “intimate partner” homicides by including provisions expanding firearms laws to prohibit persons convicted of dating violence from possessing firearms, prohibiting persons convicted of misdemeanor stalking from possessing firearms and prohibiting individuals subject to ex parte protective orders from possessing firearms.

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