In the midst of the fiscal cliff negotiations over the new year, Congress allowed the Violence Against Women Act to expire. Originally passed in 1994, the act has provided $4.7 billion to train police, prosecutors, physicians, and many others on how to handle cases concerning domestic and sexual violence, as well as stalking and related issues.
Senator Patrick Leahy emphasized the act's importance in last week’s judiciary hearings on gun violence. He plans to reintroduce the Violence Against Women Act, he said, "because of concern for domestic violence victims. We have statistics that show women in this country killed at alarming rates by domestic abusers with guns." Senator Leahy has the 60 votes necessary to secure passage in the Senate, but because of resistance from House Republicans it is unclear how the legislation would fare in the House.
Takeaway Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich explains that there are disagreements in two key areas: How to handle undocumented women, and how to handle gays, lesbians, and transgender people. "Democrats say just because you're undocumented doesn't mean you have any less rights in terms of being defended against domestic violence."
The core principles of the Violence Against Women Act have wide support in Congress, but, as Todd Zwillich points out, "Some of the factions on these issues on both sides are using the Violence Agains Women Act…to get their way on broader issues."