WASHINGTON — For Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), protecting and empowering domestic violence survivors is personal.
“I am a survivor myself,” said Sen. Ernst to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. “I know firsthand the paralyzing fear that comes when someone you trust abuses you.”
Ernst said she has been working with a bipartisan group of Senators to craft a bill in the Senate to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and to strengthen it.
The law provides grants for programs that prevent and respond to domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.
It first passed in 1994 but hasn’t been renewed since 2013 after negotiations failed in 2019.
The House passed a bill earlier this year to reauthorize VAWA and it now hangs in the balance in the Senate.
“We will keep working until we come to a bill that won’t just be a talking point for one side or the other, but a bill that can pass the Senate and the House, become a law, and truly deliver for my fellow survivors,” Ernst said.
Lawmakers said the proposal would improve access to legal services for survivors and it would crack down on offenders.
“It will help keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of abusers and it will provide survivors with the support they need by expanding access to legal services and other crucial programs,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco pointed to the high-profile murder of Gabby Petito in her testimony as a tragic example of why our public response to domestic violence needs to continue to be strengthened.
“It shows the vital importance of having trained law enforcement who understand the dynamics of domestic violence when responding to such incidents,” Monaco said.
Monaco said the Office of the Violence Against Women this year has issued more than $476 million in grants to state, local and tribal organizations to support survivors and to respond to domestic violence incidents.
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