WASHINGTON – An increase in domestic violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic has renewed the push to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
President-elect Joe Biden has said he would renew the act that expired last year, but he faces a tough challenge if Republicans keep control of the Senate after Georgia’s runoff elections next month. But an increase in domestic violence calls and arrests across the country may put pressure on Senate GOP to restart stalled reauthorization efforts.
...U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said it is time for Republicans in the Senate to focus on the needs of women.
“The pandemic has brought into stark relief inequalities and issues that we knew existed before, and that is certainly true with domestic violence,” she said.
Comprehensive data on the effect of COVID-19 and social isolation on domestic violence is not readily available as a large number of incidents may be going unreported, experts fear. But limited data has shown an increase in cases as families are stuck at home with their attackers.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a 9% increase in calls between March 16 – when many states issued lockdown orders – and May 16 compared with the same period in 2019. Similarly, the San Antonio Police Department received 18% more calls related to family violence this March compared with March of last year, and there was a 10% increase in domestic violence reports in the same month to the New York City Police Department compared with March 2019. The Portland Police Bureau also recorded a 22% increase in arrests related to domestic violence in the weeks after stay-at-home orders.
...Although Congress has continued to fund programs under the Violence Against Women Act, these programs may not be able to meet the demand that the pandemic has brought and advocates remain uncertain about how to move forward without the full protection of the act, said Ruth Glenn, president and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
...But the most recent version of the bill passed by the House last year intended to close the “boyfriend loophole,” which proved to be a large point of contention for many Republicans.
Previous versions of the act barred those convicted of domestic violence or abuse from purchasing and owning a gun if they were married to, lived with or had a child with the victim. But the 2019 amendment hoped to extend that provision to include dating partners and stalkers.
Original story here.