Senate Panel Approves
On February 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved, 10-8,
the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act
(S. 1925), after adopting, by unanimous consent, a substitute amendment by
Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT), which revised language in the underlying bill
pertaining to the U Visa program, which provides illegal immigrants who are
victims of violent crime an opportunity to gain legal status in the U.S. The
current authorization for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (P.L. 109-162)
expired in September.
Sponsored by Sen. Leahy, the bill would authorize funding
for programs to eliminate and reduce domestic and dating violence, sexual
assault, and stalking. The bill would authorize $222 million for FY2012-2016 for
the Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors (STOP) Grants program, which
is the primary grant program for states and local jurisdictions to address
violence against women.
The bill would place additional emphasis on sexual assault
by authorizing the development and strengthening of “best practices to respond
to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking”; training
for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors; “programs addressing sexual
assault of men, women, and youth in correctional and detention settings”;
protocols for responding to, and addressing backlogs in, rape kit collection
and inventories; and programs that target male and female victims, as well as
those for whom traditional services may not be accessible because of their
sexual orientation or gender identity.
The measure also would set aside at least 25 percent of a
state’s total STOP Grant allocation for “programs and projects that
meaningfully address sexual assault, including stranger rape, acquaintance
rape, alcohol- or drug-facilitated rape, and rape within the context of an
intimate partner relationship.”
The legislation would authorize $70 million for FY2012-2016
for the Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforce Protection Orders program
and $57 million for the legal assistance for victims program.
The bill would authorize $22 million for FY2012-2016 for a
consolidated grant program for families in the judicial system. Sex offender
management programs would be authorized at $5 million for FY2012-2016. The
measure also updates federal anti-stalking laws to include cyberstalking.
The Sexual Assault Services Program would be authorized to
receive $40 million in FY2012-2016, while programs to address such violence in
rural settings would be authorized at $50 million during the same period.
Programs to eliminate violence against women with disabilities would be
authorized at $9 million.
Elder abuse programs would be authorized at $6 million for
FY2012-2016. In addition, the bill would authorize the training of health care
providers, faith-based leaders, or other community-based organizations to
recognize and address signs of elder abuse. Outreach activities and awareness
campaigns to ensure that victims of elder abuse receive appropriate treatment
also would be authorized.
The measure would authorize $15 million for FY2012-2016 “to
develop, expand, and strengthen victim-centered interventions and services that
target youth who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual
assault, and stalking.” Such services may include counseling, mentoring,
educational support, transportation, and legal assistance, among others.
The program also would authorize training for personnel at
middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities to address the needs of
students who are victims of such violence. The bill would authorize the
development and implementation of prevention and intervention policies, provide
support services and educational programs, and develop strategies at the middle
and high school levels to address these types of violence.
Programs to combat violent crimes at institutions of higher
education would be authorized at $12 million in FY2012-2016. The measure also would
update the Clery Act (P.L. 101-542) – which requires colleges and universities
to provide information about campus security policies and crime statistics to
students and staff – to require colleges and universities to inform students
and staff of the school’s policies regarding procedures victims should take following
a sex offense or incident of domestic violence, possible sanctions or
protective measures the institution may impose on perpetrators, the rights of
victims, and the institution’s responsibilities regarding restraining orders
and other forms of protection.
Transitional housing assistance grants for victims of
domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking would be
authorized at $35 million for FY2012-2016; the National Resource Center on
Workplace Responses would be authorized at $1 million.
The bill would expand the list of enumerated crimes for
which non-citizen victims of violence may obtain a U visa to include dating
violence and stalking; domestic violence and sexual assault currently are
The legislation would authorize grants for tribal governments
and tribal coalitions in order to reduce and eliminate violence against Indian
women. The measure would grant tribal jurisdiction over “all persons” with
regard to crimes of domestic and dating violence.
During consideration of the bill, the committee adopted the
- An amendment by Sen. Grassley to add habitual
drunk driving to the list of aggravated felonies for which illegal immigrants
can be deported, 18-0. The Grassley amendment was adopted after the committee
adopted, 11-7, an amendment by Sen. Leahy to prevent the provision from applying
to convictions before enactment of the bill;
- An amendment by Sen. Grassley to create a
mandatory five-year minimum sentence for individuals convicted of aggravated
sexual assault, 15-2; and
- An amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) to make
failure to disclose one’s criminal record, as required by the International
Marriage Broker Regulation Act (P.L. 109-162), a misdemeanor offense, 14-2.
Speaking in support of S. 1925, Sen.
Leahy said, “No other law has done more to stop domestic and sexual
violence in our communities. As a prosecutor in Vermont, I saw firsthand the
destruction caused by domestic and sexual violence.” He continued, “As with
each previous reauthorization of VAWA, this legislation builds on VAWA’s
success and seeks to respond to unmet and emerging needs. Sen. [Michael] Crapo
[(R-ID)] and I reached out to the professionals in the field to learn how this
critical legislation could be improved to better serve victims. We heard from
service providers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and survivors
themselves. We have worked hard to make this bill responsive to their needs.”
“I have consistently supported previous reauthorizations of
VAWA,” said Sen.
Grassley. In detailing some reasons for his opposition to S. 1925, Sen.
Grassley said, “For instance, S. 1925 states that it recognizes the ‘inherent
power’ of Indian tribes, which is hereby recognized and affirmed, to exercise
special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over all persons…But as we meet
here today, there is no inherent power of tribes to do anything of the sort the
bill says.” Sen. Grassley added, “The Leahy substitute would prohibit
discrimination by grantees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender
identity. Of course, I agree that shelters and other grant recipients should
provide services equally to everyone. But advocates of this provision haven’t
produced data that shelters have refused to provide services for these reasons.”