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Durbin, Lead Senate Sponsors Celebrate the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the lead cosponsors of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization Act, joined fellow lead cosponsors, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), to celebrate President Biden signing VAWA’s reauthorization into law.

“This is a monumental achievement for the survivors of domestic [and] sexual violence and those who stand by them,” Durbin said.  “With this strengthened version of VAWA, we have helped ensure every survivor in America, no matter where they live, will be able to reach for a lifeline in a moment of crisis…  At a moment when nearly one in three women—one in three—have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence, a crisis that's grown worse during the pandemic, VAWA is going to help save lives.”

Durbin went on to tell the story of an abuse survivor in Chicago whose participation in VAWA-funded programs changed her life and supported her on a successful path to recovery.

“My office received a letter from a woman named Kesha who works with Connections for Abused Women and their Children (CAWC) in Chicago,” Durbin said.  “She shared the story of Cassandra, who was receiving treatment at the Center for Substance Abuse and disclosed to her counselor that she was the victim of abusive treatment.  Her counselor referred her to VAWA[-funded programming] and that programming gave her an opportunity to, ‘open up about the emotional, financial, and physical abuse’ she'd suffered for years at the hands of an abusive husband…  With the help of her domestic violence counselor, Cassandra was able to break free and transition into temporary housing...  [She's been] able to gain financial independence and find [a job].’ 

“She's remained on her path to recovery, a success story, and a reminder that VAWA doesn't just help save lives—it gives survivors the power to rebuild their own lives,” Durbin continued.  

Notably, the reauthorization of VAWA is the latest in a growing list of legislative victories for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence during this Congress.  Earlier this month, President Biden signed into law the bipartisan Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, sponsored in the Senate by Durbin and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC).  The Senate also passed the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act earlier this month—bipartisan legislation Durbin introduced with Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) after the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the crimes committed by Larry Nassar.

And last year, President Biden signed into law the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act—a law that, like VAWA, will help survivors of domestic violence and victims of violent crimes access the professional services they desperately need. These legislative victories are a testament to all of the survivors who have stepped forward to share their stories.

Durbin concluded, “I want to thank Senator Feinstein, Senator Ernst, Senator Murkowski for their partnership and tireless leadership in getting this bill addressed, introduced, and across the finish line…  the Indian Affairs Committee, chaired by Brian Schatz…  Chair Murray and the staff of the HELP Committee, Chair Brown and the staff of the Banking Committee, Chair Wyden and the staff of the Finance Committee… This was a multi-Committee team effort on both sides of the aisle, and that is the only reason we can stand here today and say we will continue to give hope to those who are struggling with domestic violence and abuse.”

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.

For nearly 30 years, VAWA has transformed the way we address domestic and sexual violence in America and saved countless lives.  The Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act was passed in the Senate on March 10, 2022 as part of the omnibus government funding bill, and signed into law by President Biden on March 15, 2022.

Key provisions of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act:

  • Provides services, protection and justice for young victims of violence, including extending the Rape Prevention and Education grant program and improving grants focused on prevention education for students in institutions of higher education.
  • Enhances judicial and law enforcement tools through reauthorization of the Justice Department’s STOP Violence Against Women Formula Program, known as the STOP Program, and expansion of the STOP Program to better support survivors who are 50 years of age or older and survivors with disabilities.
  • Reauthorizes and updates the SMART Prevention Program to reduce dating violence, help children who have been exposed to domestic violence, and engage men in preventing violence.
  • Provides economic security assistance for survivors by reauthorizing the National Resource Center on Workplace Response. Expands the program to support sexual harassment victims and ensure that the program’s resources are available to private-sector businesses with fewer than 20 employees in addition to public-sector entities.
  • Improves the medical response to instances of domestic violence and sexual assault, including expanding access to medical forensic examinations after a sexual assault for survivors who live in rural communities.
  • Protects Native American women by improving tribal access to federal crime information databases and clarifying the existence of tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual violence, sex trafficking and stalking that takes place on tribal lands. It also includes an Alaska pilot program that will empower a limited number of tribes to exercise special criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes that occur in Alaska Native villages.
  • Enhances existing grant programs for survivors in need of culturally-specific services and authorizes a grant program to provide community-specific services for LGBT survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Directs the Office on Violence Against Women to provide technical assistance and training to victim service providers and organizations that are seeking to work with survivors.