WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse joined with women’s advocates and survivors of domestic abuse Friday — calling on the U.S. Senate to swiftly approve legislation to better prevent domestic and sexual violence.
The event was held in Warwick at the Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center, which serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWRA) introduced by the Democratic senators last month. The bill preserves advancements made in previous reauthorizations of the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and makes new strides to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault and support survivors.
The most recent reauthorization of VAWA expired in February and it has been more than 250 days since the VAWRA passed the House with support from both parties.
“To allow this law to lapse is to deny critical resources and protections to those who need it most,” Reed said. “It is inexcusable and I urge Republican leaders in Washington to listen to law enforcement, advocates, and families across the country who are all saying the same thing: reauthorize VAWA, go after offenders and protect vulnerable Americans.”
Republican leadership in the Senate has not allowed a vote on the bill. The House passed the legislation 263-158, with 33 Republicans voting yes.
“It is unconscionable that the landmark federal law protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault has been allowed to lapse for nearly a year,” Whitehouse said. “This legislation has already passed the House with bipartisan support, and it goes further than previous versions of the law to prevent violence and secure justice for survivors. Republican Senate leaders need to make passing this bill an immediate priority.”
Reed and Whitehouse also announced that local organizations will receive five grants, totaling over $2 million, from the U.S. Department of Justice to support crime victims, hold perpetrators accountable and strengthen services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
“We know first-hand how critical VAWA is to survivors and their families,” Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence Tonya Harris said. “This year marks the 25th anniversary of the initial passage of VAWA, which has since transformed how our country responds to domestic and sexual abuse, teen dating violence and stalking for the better – protecting and empowering victims and survivors.”
“The legislation to reauthorize VAWA was created by listening to the needs of people who have experienced violence,” Harris added. “I cannot stress this enough: This is a lifesaving bill,” said Tonya Harris, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.”
The fiscal year 2019 U.S Department of Justice grants for Rhode Island organizations include:
- $1,362,741 for the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety, which will receive a $983,801 Services, Training, Officers and Prosecution (STOP) grant and a $378,940 Sexual Assault Services (SAS) grant.
- $407,438 to the Women’s Resource Center (Newport) to enhance services provided to victims of domestic violence and provide holistic, victim-centered support services that move individuals into permanent housing.
- $151,242 to Day One (Providence) to help Day One advocate for sexual assault victims of all ages, educate the public, and work toward prevention.
- $90,975 to the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (Warwick) in support of state coalition efforts to coordinate victim services statewide and advance the goals of the Violence Against Women Act.