[NORTHAMPTON, Mass] – – Tomorrow marks 20 years since President Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law on September 13, 1994. The landmark legislation created critical protections for victims of domestic violence and dramatically strengthened our nation’s criminal justice response to violence against women.
“The Violence Against Women Act has helped to improve and save lives – not just for women, but also for their families,” said U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern. “It is absolutely critical to strengthen our response to these crimes and deepen our commitment to all survivors.”
The National Coalition for Prevention of Domestic Violence estimates that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. On the social media site, Twitter, the hashtags “#WhyILeft” and “#WhyIStayed” trended in the United States over the last week when countless survivors of domestic violence recounted the reasons why they stayed, or left, abusive relationships
“Over the last week, countless women courageously and publicly shared their stories of domestic violence on social media,” said Rep. McGovern. “Their stories make it clear that the protections offered under VAWA continue to be necessary.”
VAWA is landmark legislation that House Democrats are committed to strengthening by increasing investments in shelters and other life-saving domestic violence services.
“I am so thankful for this legislation because domestic violence is a very real issue that impacts too many,” said Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan. “VAWA is absolutely necessary for the women and children who have suffered domestic violence – and it is something worth enhancing and protecting.”
VAWA has instituted stricter sentencing guidelines for repeat federal sex crime offenders and provides resources to tribal, local, and state law enforcement communities to address violent crimes against women. VAWA funds provide training for over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and other personnel every year.
“The Northampton Police Department has benefitted immensely from VAWA funding over the years,” said Russell P Sienkiewicz, Chief of the Northampton Police Department. “We have utilized the money for increased officer training, as well as partnering with the Northwestern District Attorney’s office, Amherst and Umass PD’s to establish department based bilingual civilian advocates for victim outreach and assistance.”
The National Domestic Violence Hotline, which responds to more than 22,000 urgent calls for help every month, was also created under VAWA.
Jane Doe, Inc., a statewide sexual and domestic violence non-profit, advocacy, and membership organization, lists local support organizations for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence at http://www.janedoe.org/find_help/search.
If you are a victim of abuse and you need assistance in the Pioneer Valley, please contact your local law enforcement agency, or:
Services Offered: Domestic and Sexual Violence Services
Office Phone: 413-772-0871
Hotline Phone: 413-772-0806
TTY Phone: 413-772-0806
Services Offered: Domestic Violence Services
Office Phone: 413-586-1125
Hotline Phone: 413-586-5066
Featured image courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture via flickr under Creative Commons.