WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) issued the following statement calling for the reauthorization and expansion of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):
"All people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic background should have the same right to live free from domestic and sexual violence. But instead of making reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act a priority, Republicans have chosen to focus on confirming right-wing judges to the district and circuit courts rather than introduce legislation. They chose to further President Trump's agenda to dismantle the Affordable Care Act rather than protect women and girls from domestic and sexual violence. They chose to force through a Supreme Court nominee without full vetting rather than ensure the courts, prosecutors, and law enforcement continue to have the tools they need to prosecute abusers. They have attempted to silence victims rather than build on prior bipartisan legislation to give voice, protection, and assistance to victims.
"If VAWA lapses, 24 years of progress in recognizing and addressing the chronic violence experienced by women in the United States will be lost. We cannot continue to allow the needs of victims of domestic and sexual abuse to be secondary to political whims.
"The enactment of VAWA in 1994 was an acknowledgment of not only the significance of domestic and sexual violence, but also a commitment of resources to the courts, prosecutors, and law enforcement to ensure the prosecution of abusers and address the needs of victims. VAWA's reauthorization in 2013 expanded on these successes and I was proud to fight for key provisions to more effectively combat violence against all victims by increasing protections for Native American women, gay and lesbian victims, and battered immigrant women.
"Congress has an opportunity to not only reauthorize VAWA before it expires, but also build on its success. We need to authorize more resources for preventing domestic and sexual violence, we need to improve the enforcement of protective orders to protect brave individuals who have come to the courts for help. A future VAWA should provide victims of abuse and violence with safe housing and economic stability programs to help them get back on their feet. Finally, we should continue the steps we have taken to protect Native American women and girls who face appalling levels of violence, exploitation, and murder by further increasing their access to justice and safety.
"We have an opportunity as a Congress to draw a line in the sand and to say we will as a society put all of the resources necessary to identify, address, and end violence and sexual abuse towards women and girls. We have an opportunity to say to offenders these actions are unacceptable and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We have an opportunity to say to our children you have the right to grow up free of being victimized. We need make these issues a priority now and not let this opportunity slip again. The Violence Against Women Act must be reauthorized and strengthened without delay."