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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Jay Rockefeller, cosponsor of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which is under consideration by the U.S. Senate this week, today said building upon the programs this law supports is vital for West Virginia to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Highlighting the importance of reauthorizing VAWA programs, which provided West Virginia with more than $3.9 million last year for enforcement and victims’ services, Rockefeller plans to convene a roundtable discussion in the Eastern Panhandle this Friday, February 8. He held a similar discussion in Charleston last May with those who work in the field, as well as survivors of abuse.

“There are tragically inspiring stories of survival in West Virginia – like the young mom who was being beaten so badly by her husband that all she could hold onto were the sounds of her sons crying. After suffering control and abuse for years, that was her breaking point – and she got out,” Rockefeller said. “For courageous people like her, this is one of the moments when VAWA is so important. It supports the services that make a difference for these survivors. It should absolutely be continued, and it should be strengthened.”

Rockefeller was an original cosponsor of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 – the first major federal initiative to address domestic violence and related crimes. The nation’s first case prosecuted under VAWA was in West Virginia.

Through formula and competitive grants under VAWA, state and local governments, nonprofits, and colleges and universities are able to: 

    • Provide services to victims of sexual assault;
    • Establish arrest policies when police receive domestic violence complaints;
    • Provide legal assistance to victims; and
    • Train court personnel and law enforcement to improve response to domestic violence.

One VAWA program, Stop Violence Against Women, provides financial assistance to states for developing and strengthening effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies and victim services. In 2011, this program supported 54 positions, 21 teams of professionals, and three state projects in West Virginia aimed at ensuring a safer environment for women.

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 would renew programs that help law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service providers keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable. In addition, it includes an increased focus on sexual assault, efforts to prevent domestic violence homicides, expanded services for underserved communities, and a provision enabling West Virginia to qualify for a greater share of funding under the Rural Grants Program.

Background

The Violence Against Women Act was up for reauthorization in 2011. Rockefeller cosponsored and pushed for a strong Senate reauthorization of VAWA last year that contained a number of key improvements. More than 200 national organizations and 500 state and local organizations across the country supported the Senate bill, which passed on April 26, 2012. The House of Representatives did not vote on the Senate bill.

In addition to being an original cosponsor of VAWA in 1994, Rockefeller cosponsored its reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005, and consistently supports federal funding for VAWA programs.

As Governor in 1979, Rockefeller signed a bill into law that, for the first time, gave domestic violence victims in West Virginia the ability to seek protective orders in civil courts. This law made it easier for victims to obtain protection.

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