Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks during the markup of H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019:
“Today, the Committee will consider H.R. 1585, the ‘Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019.’ This follows the hearing held last week by the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on the need to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which we often refer to as ‘VAWA.’ At this hearing, we learned that VAWA not only needs to be reauthorized, but also that its critical programs must be expanded and strengthened. The bill before us today would accomplish both of these important goals.
“I want to thank the Gentlewoman from California, Ms. Bass, the Chair of the Crime Subcommittee, and the sponsor of this legislation, for her leadership in the effort to reauthorize VAWA. I also want to thank Ms. Jackson Lee for her longstanding and tireless efforts over the years to protect and strengthen the Act.
“VAWA was signed into law in 1994 to help ensure that women in America are free from violence and free from fear. At the time VAWA was enacted, it was all too common for violent crimes against women to go without appropriate response and to remain unaddressed by the criminal justice system.
“But through programs implemented under VAWA, Congress began to help provide communities in America the assistance they need to combat the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. And these programs and resources are unfortunately still necessary. Every year, approximately 7.9 million women are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, and an average of 3 women are killed every day by a current or former intimate partner.
“VAWA, which is not gender-exclusive, addresses the needs of men and women, children, persons with disabilities, homeless persons, and LGBTQ people, among others. Importantly, H.R. 1585 includes new protections for transgender individuals by making them newly eligible for certain DOJ grants, and by ensuring that their gender identity is properly recognized by the Bureau of Prisons. The range of individuals VAWA helps is broad and should be as diverse as our communities around the country. I am pleased that this reauthorization continues our commitment to this principle.
“VAWA has had, and continues to have, a positive impact on people who rely on its assistance, whether directly or indirectly. Through grants to state and local governments, the Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice funds the work of thousands of advocates in preventing and addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, and in assisting and training law enforcement and victim advocates.
“In addition, grants administered through the Department of Health and Human Services provide funds for shelters, rape prevention and education, programs to address and reduce the sexual abuse of runaway and homeless youth, and programs to educate the community on domestic violence. The reach of the work carried out under VAWA is vast and we must continue to support it.
“Because of its importance and its success, VAWA was reauthorized on a bipartisan basis in 2000, in 2005, and in 2013. Unfortunately, not only has VAWA now expired without being reauthorized, but because of the foolish government shutdown, we even had a lapse in appropriations for VAWA earlier this year, which jeopardized funding for domestic violence shelters.
“It is time for us to act, but it would not be enough to merely extend the dates of authorization for existing VAWA programs, as some have suggested. We must set our goal appropriately higher, and our task now is not just to reauthorize VAWA, but to enhance and expand it to make it even more effective.
“H.R. 1585, the bill before us today, is a significant update to VAWA that will strengthen and enhance the vital services currently provided under the law to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Among the provisions within our jurisdiction that this Committee will now consider, the bill reauthorizes the Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors, or STOP, Grants administered by the Department of Justice and it preserves funding for sexual assault services programs.
“The bill will also strengthen the non-discrimination provisions of the STOP Program, as well as provide for greater protections for survivors during the prosecution of perpetrators. In addition, this legislation expands services for older survivors of abuse, and for programs targeting domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and child abuse enforcement in rural areas.
“H.R. 1585 also expands protections against gun violence in domestic abuse situations, including provisions that extend current federal gun prohibitions to include individuals who have misdemeanor stalking convictions and dating partners convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.
“Another critical improvement over current law is the expansion of jurisdiction of some tribal authorities over non-Indians who commit certain crimes, such as assaulting a law enforcement or corrections officer, obstruction of justice, sex trafficking, sexual violence, and stalking on tribal lands.
“The ‘Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019’ is comprehensive and inclusive legislation that I hope will earn bipartisan support, in the long tradition of this vital law.
“It is fitting that the Committee’s efforts on this important bill take place during Women’s History Month, as we seek to put an end to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, once and for all. Thank you. I yield back the balance of my time.”
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