INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined 52 of his fellow state and territorial Attorneys General in calling on the U.S. Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
"Reauthorizing this act can help ensure that vital programs keeping women and families safe from violence and abuse continue," Zoeller said. "Domestic violence knows no borders and that's why it is important to dedicate local, state and federal resources to combat this crime. I join my colleagues in asking Congress to take action and help protect the vulnerable."
In their letter to members of Congress, the Attorneys General note that since the initial passage of VAWA in 1994, the national response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking has been transformed. Zoeller said crimes that used to be considered private family matters to be dealt with behind closed doors have been brought out of the darkness and the results have been dramatic.
While rates of domestic violence have dropped by more than 50 percent in the past 17 years, the issues addressed by VAWA are still at the forefront of the war on crime. Tragically, three women are killed each day in the United States by abusive husbands and partners, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Citing the need to maintain services to victims and families on the local, state and federal level, the Attorneys General urged Congress to reauthorize VAWA for the first time since 2006. They note that reauthorization would not only allow existing programs to continue uninterrupted, but would also provide for the development of new initiatives aimed at key areas most in need of intervention.
These initiatives include:
· Addressing the high rates of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault among women aged 16-24. Programs will work to combat tolerant youth attitudes toward violence and break the cycle in which women who experience abuse as teens are more likely to be victimized again as adults;
· Improving the response to sexual assault across disciplines by implementing best practices, training and communication tools among the healthcare, law enforcement and legal services a victim encounters after an assault; and
· Preventing domestic violence homicides by enhancing training for law enforcement, advocates, and others who interact with those at risk. A growing number of experts and researchers agree that these homicides are predictable - and therefore preventable - if we know the warning signs.
The Attorneys General closed their letter to Congress by recalling that when VAWA was first passed in 1994, it was recognition that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are pervasive issues affecting individuals, families and communities across the nation. They note that the progress that has resulted from strong federal support has been tremendous, but that the fight never ends.
Other Attorneys General signing on to this letter are from: American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
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