TRENTON – Acting to preserve millions of dollars in grant funds that help New Jersey protect women from domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and other abuses, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today called on congressional leaders to reauthorize the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
In a multi-state letter to leaders of both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, Attorney General Grewal joined other Attorneys General in urging that Congress act “swiftly” to reauthorize the 24-year-old VAWA legislation.
He cautioned that failure to do so will mean millions of victims of violence against women “will have nowhere to turn, violent crimes against women will increase, and perpetrators of these crimes will go unpunished.”
“There are women out there right now living in a constant state of anxiety and fear because they’ve been the victims of sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence or other abuse,” said Attorney General Grewal. “It is our job to help these victims and to prosecute their tormentors, but in order to be effective we need resources. The annual funding that flows to New Jersey from VAWA is vital to helping victims, so we need Congress to act now. In New Jersey and across the nation, our efforts to combat violence against women should never waiver, should never be pushed to the margins, and should never be delayed or diminished by political gamesmanship or foot dragging. ”
New Jersey received approximately $4.25 million in VAWA funding in Fiscal Year 2017, the bulk of it ($3.78 million) administered through the Department of Law and Public Safety, and another $473,407 allocated to the Department of Children and Families to support its Sexual Assault Services Program.
VAWA was originally enacted in 1994, and was reauthorized in 2000, 2005 and again in 2013. In the decade between 1995 and 2016, more than $6 billion in grants were awarded under VAWA to a broad array of government and non-profit organizations across the U.S.
The letter sent today by Attorney General Grewal and the other Attorneys General asserts that, throughout its history, VAWA has garnered bipartisan support, and has gained in strength and reach with each successive reauthorization.
“With every iteration of the law,” the letter to Congressional leaders notes, “services, resources, protections and remedies for survivors of these crimes (against women) have been enhanced.”
The letter explains that VAWA funding supports programs that provide training and assistance to help combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. VAWA dollars also fund aid to victims, and facilitate “partnerships between prosecutors, judges, advocates, community organizations, and health care providers.”
“Through our extensive effort to fight violence against women and support survivors,” the Attorneys General note, “we have seen that coordinated responses are essential to help survivors through crisis, and empower them to live safe and healthy lives.”
Today’s letter reminds congressional leaders that, while VAWA has “substantially improved access to advocacy, health care and legal services” for women victimized by sexual assault, domestic abuse and other intimate violence, there is still much work to be done.
“Every aspect of our society – rural, suburban, urban and our tribal communities – has been impacted by the painful effects of violence against women,” the letter states. It goes on to say that reauthorization of VAWA is needed “to maintain the essential tools so necessary to support survivors and reduce the frequency of these senseless acts of violence.”
Attorney General Grewal and the other Attorneys General conclude the letter by asking congressional leaders to “work together before VAWA expires” to pass a VAWA reauthorization bill “that continues to ensure our nation’s most vulnerable victims are not left behind.”
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