At events in Washington, D.C. and New Orleans today, Attorney General Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General James Cole, and Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women Bea Hanson called on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has drastically reduced instances of violence and provided support to victims and their families since first being enacted in 1994.
The landmark legislation expired in 2011 and is currently awaiting reauthorization in Congress.
Speaking at the White House event on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Attorney General Eric Holder said:
Today, as Attorney General – and as the father of two teenage girls – this work remains both a personal and professional priority. And for our nation’s Department of Justice, vigorously enforcing the provisions of the Violence Against Women’s Act is part of our solemn commitment to the citizens we are privileged to serve. In many ways, fulfilling this commitment has never been more urgent. Estimates show that more than 2 million adults – and more than 15 million children – are exposed to domestic violence every single year.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole also echoed the administration’s commitment to preventing domestic violence and reauthorizing the VAWA in his remarks at the 12th Annual International Family Justice Center Conference in New Orleans:
While the Department of Justice does a great deal in this area, it is committed to doing more to serve survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse and to prevent these terrible crimes from occurring in the first place. That is why, led by the excellent work of the Office on Violence Against Women, we are working to support a coordinated community response to address the causes and consequences of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and child abuse.
The department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) provides national leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to reduce violence against women through the implementation of the VAWA. Family Justice Centers are an example of a the type of program the OVW and the Violence Against Women Act support. These centers give victims and their children access to trained advocates, police officers, prosecutors, judges and medical professionals – all in one location – so they don’t have to go from place to place to get the help they need and deserve.
Bea Hanson, the Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women, spoke in New Orleans about how the Family Justice Center model has effectively worked throughout the country:
I saw firsthand how the co-location of so many partners – prosecutors, law enforcement, probation, victim compensation, and many services for victims – legal support, counseling, child care, case management, services for people with disabilities, services in multiple languages – all came together to provide wrap-around services for victims and their children. The services to victims are unparalleled and the cooperation and collaboration between partners are core to fulfilling the idea of a community coordinated response to violence against women and children.
Much has been done in the years since the VAWA became law, but domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse are still too prevalent in our communities.
In America, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 13 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped at some time in their lives. Each day, on average, three women die as a result of domestic violence.
These crimes impact not only the immediate victims, but their families, neighbors, friends, and indeed their entire communities. This is a problem that affects people of every background, ethnicity, age, ability or sexual orientation. The Violence Against Women Act is a key tool in the fight against these crimes. The proposed VAWA legislation combines tough new penalties to both prosecute offenders and offer aid and support to victims.
While waiting on Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, the federal government continues to take steps (PDF) to stop the violence. At the White House today, President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum (PDF) that will require federal agencies to develop policies to address the effects of domestic violence and provide assistance to employees who are experiencing domestic violence.
The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool at our disposal to protect citizens and support victims of violence.
For more information about our work in this area visit the Office on Violence Against Women. We remind all those in need of assistance, or other concerned friends and individuals, to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.