Advocates for the federal Violence Against Women Act are hoping Congress will expand the law’s coverage but do not have much hope for additional funding. Backers hope that a reauthorized law can be passed by Congress and signed by President Obama early next year, although that might be optimistic given the slow pace of legislation in Washington these days. A coalition of groups interested in the law have proposed five additions to coverage, including legal assistance and advocacy, training of court personnel, outreach to as many as 16 “underserved populations,” military interventions, and tribal programs. The underserved populations include women unlikely to call 911 or go to court as their first response to violence.
A five-year reauthorization proposal is expected to be introduced soon by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The law has received more than $400 million annually in recent years. Advocates told a meeting of criminal-justice organization representatives in the capital this week that it would be unrealistic to expect an increase in an era of 20% cuts in federal anticrime grants to states and localities. Asked whether expanding the reach of the law might dilute funding available for current grantees, Paulette Sullivan Moore of the National Network to End Domestic Violence said that might happen, but the coalition had agreed on “the need for all people to be safe.” Also speaking at the session was Rob Valente of the Domestic Violence Research Network.