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January 24, 2012 > Congress asked to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

Congress asked to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

Submitted By Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and 53 other attorneys general have signed a letter calling on the U.S. Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and ensure the sustainability of vital programs designed to keep women and families safe from violence and abuse.

"We've made tremendous strides in how we deal with violence against women - from prosecuting violent offenders to breaking the cycles of crime and supporting and empowering victims," said Attorney General Harris. "However, our work is not done and the Violence Against Women Act, and ongoing support, is critical to this effort."

In a letter to members of Congress, the attorneys general note progress has been made since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994. Domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking - once considered private matters to be dealt with behind closed doors - have been brought into the open.

While annual rates have fallen by more than more than 50 percent, domestic violence remains a serious issue. Every day in the United States, three women are killed by abusive husbands and partners. In California, there were 166,361 domestic violence calls in 2010, including more than 65,000 that involved a weapon.

In urging Congress to reauthorize VAWA for the first time since 2006, the attorneys general cited the need to maintain services for victims and families at local, state and federal levels. Reauthorization would allow existing programs to continue uninterrupted, and provide for the development of new initiatives to address key areas of concern.

These initiatives include 1) addressing the high rates of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault among women, ages 16-24 by combating tolerant youth attitudes toward violence; 2) Improving the response to sexual assault with best practices, training, and communication tools for law enforcement, as well as healthcare and legal professionals; 3) preventing domestic violence homicides through enhanced training for law enforcement, advocates and others who interact with those at risk. A growing number of experts agree that these homicides are predictable - and therefore preventable - if we know the warning signs.

"We know a great deal more about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking than we did 17 years ago. Reauthorizing VAWA will allow us to build on those lessons and continue to make progress and save lives," the letter from the attorneys general concludes.

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