Bill Would Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Wednesday to reauthorize the Clinton-era Violence Against Women Act, introduced in 1994 by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and reauthorized in 2000.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Barbra Boxer (D-Calif.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined Biden in introducing the bill for reauthorization.

If it does not pass, the measure will expire on Sept. 30.

"The problem of violence against women does not always get the attention it deserves," Hatch said.

"But largely because of VAWA, violent crimes against women have decreased by 49 percent since 1992, incidents of rape are down 60 percent, and attempted rape is down by 57 percent. And, importantly, more women are reporting domestic violence and receiving the necessary legal, financial, and social support they need for protection," Hatch added.

But some conservatives are not enthusiastic about the legislation.

"I think some serious questions need to be asked," said Wendy Wright, senior policy director of Concerned Women for America. "It seems more to be about funding the radical left than about finding a solution."

According to Wright, VAWA "has become a huge funneling scheme to radical feminist activists who use the funding to basically set up anti-men programs." She pointed to studies show that men don't always initiate violence: "Women are not always the victim; they are sometimes the perpetrators of violence."

But according to Jill Morris, the public policy director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, VAWA is "not anti-male at all. It's anti-violence.

"I think that it's outstanding that congressmen are rededicating their support. They know that it works," said Morris.

"When it started in 1994, it really focused on the criminal justice system and providing funding to local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to get more training and more well equipped staff so that they could go on the scene and investigate the crimes, bring the perpetrator in and make sure they are prosecuted and also to provide support to victims," said Morris.

She said she hopes the reauthorization will focus more on violence prevention programs and strategies.

Wright also wants to make changes to the bill, including couples' counseling, and she would like it to be broadened to include funding for faith-based groups.

"Faith-based groups do have a better track record of success rates than secular groups," said Wright.

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