WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (MA-5) joined the U.S. House of Representatives in voting for the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1620), a comprehensive package that provides support services and prevention measures to combat domestic and intimate partner violence. The legislation includes an amendment authored by the Assistant Speaker that establishes a grant program to train state and local law enforcement to prevent, enforce, and prosecute crimes carried out online. It also creates a national resource center to study online crimes and requires the FBI to update the Uniform Crime Reports and the National Incident-Based Reporting System to include cybercrimes. 

“While the cases of COVID-19 rose in America, so did domestic and intimate partner violence, and this legislation before us provides the tools necessary to save lives and end the cycle of violence,” said Assistant Speaker Clark during a speech on the U.S. House Floor. “The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization makes crucial improvements to the law by closing loopholes to stop violent partners from accessing firearms, providing services for survivors of stalking, and tackling the growing threat of online crimes. Today, the House stands up for everyone by providing safety everywhere — whether you are at home, at work, on campus, and online.” 

“First introduced in 1994, the need for the Violence Against Women Act has in no way diminished in the last 27 years, and yet it expired in 2018,” said Stephanie Deeley, President of the League of Women Voters of Framingham, and the Vice Chair of the MetroWest Commission on the Status of Women. “I believe that this legislation was instrumental in bringing this issue out of the darkness that so often benefits the perpetrators of this insidious evil. Victims need to know they are not at fault, they are not alone, and that we will stand with them, and perpetrators need to see that they will be held accountable. I applaud my Congresswoman, Katherine Clark, and all the members of Congress who have brought this important legislation forward again to offer some hope and protection to those facing this terrifying danger.”

The landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994 ushered in transformative progress by calling for the protection of all Americans from violence and abuse, and working to ensure all victims and survivors have the support they need.  This critical reauthorization will safeguard and further build upon these life-saving protections for women throughout Massachusetts and across the country.

In recent years, the internet has become an easy way for abusers to stalk victims of domestic violence and prey on vulnerable children and this is only exacerbated by the pandemic and increased screen time online. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 41% of adult internet users have been affected by cyberstalking, persistent harassing e-mails, or other unwanted online contact. One increasingly common form of online abuse involves perpetrators threatening to expose private or sensitive material, including nude images, unless victims produce sexual materials, engage in sexual activity, or pay the abuser money. The Department of Justice declared that this type of abuse, known as sextortion, is “by far the most significantly growing threat to children,” and that “sextortion cases tend to have more victims who are minors per offense than all other child sexual exploitation offenses.”

This reauthorization fulfills Congress’s responsibility to protect all Americans by reaffirming protections for every woman, as well as including vital improvements to address gaps in current law that have been identified by victims, survivors and advocates. This bill:

  • Improves the services available for victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking;
  • Expands the housing protections and financial assistance available for victims and survivors;
  • Improves protections for Native women, including by reaffirming tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking;
  • Closes loopholes in current firearm laws in order help prevent “intimate partner” homicides, by prohibiting persons convicted of misdemeanor stalking or dating violence from possessing firearms; and
  • Invests in tools and resources for law enforcement and evidence-based prevention programs that make our communities safer.

  

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