San Diego Union Tribune – House OKs Expanded Violence Against Women Act
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed an expansion of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act that had been stalled for months over partisan wrangling.
The vote came Thursday morning after lawmakers turned down a Republican version that did not include new protections for same-sex partners and allowing American Indian tribes to prosecute domestic violence cases against non-tribal members in their courts.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, hailed the passage that domestic violence program advocates call crucial to their funding stream.
“San Diegans have been waiting for a reauthorization to the Violence Against Women Act that is all inclusive and non-discriminatory," he said in a prepared statement. "Both Democrats and Republicans, in both houses, came together to show the American people that all victims, regardless of their heritage or sexual orientation, deserve to be protected from domestic violence.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, also praised the reauthorization. He was among House a large group of House Republicans who joined with Democrats to pass the legislation and had worked to broker a deal on the American Indian court issue.
“Passage of the Violence Against Women Act with provisions to help Native American tribes address domestic violence on tribal lands is a victory for those who insisted on their inclusion and the many Americans this new authority will help," he said. "For too long, tribes have been hamstrung in efforts to aid Native American women when they need it the most.”
Local domestic violence program administrators were anxious heading in Thursday's vote.
“This is important so we can keep our community safe,” said Edith Glassey, associate executive director of the Center for Community Solutions in San Diego. “It’s critical in order for us to provide prevention, healing support and shelter services.”
The center gets more than $1 million of its roughly $4.5 million annual budget in from money appropriated under the act. Its countywide programs served about 20,000 people last year, according to Glassey.
She and Kim Gandy, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence in Washington, strongly backed a Senate version of the renewal that was ultimately approved in the House. For Gandy, the act is the cornerstone of domestic violence and rape prevention and response.
“It’s especially important now because of dramatic cutbacks in those programs at the state and local level, and reductions in private support because of the economy,” she said.
The act’s provisions are funded for five years with an appropriation of $660 million. Much of that money is distributed by the Department of Justice in the form of grants to local programs and law enforcement agencies.
The YWCA of San Diego County also has an array of services that has relied on funding from the act. The agency served about 3,500 people last year and has more than 700 women and children now living in its shelter housing, according to its chief executive officer, Heather Finlay.
“The act tells the world and our nation that domestic violence is an issue important to our government,” she said. “One in four women in our country are victims of domestic violence so it’s important for the act to be reauthorized.”
Its funding of law enforcement domestic violence training and response teams is one its key aspects, she added.
Gandy’s group conducted a one-day “census” in 2011 that showed California domestic violence programs served 5,363 people and that another 2,822 were given refuge in a program shelter in a 24-hour period.