WASHINGTON — Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03) joined a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday to revive the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), legislation to increase support and protections for programs for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse as well as stalking and human trafficking.
“Our volunteers, shelters and support networks have been working with domestic violence and sexual assault survivors without the full funding and support they deserve from Congress for over two years,” Axne said, “and this past year of public health and economic challenges have removed even more safety nets while increasing the need for support.”
The legislation passed 244-172. Axne was joined by Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02) in voting for the reauthorization. Republicans Rep. Randy Feenstra (IA-04) and Rep. Ashley Hinson (IA-01) voted against the bill. Axne said the House’s reauthorization of the VAWA will restore needed support to Iowa’s victims of violence.
“Iowa’s communities shouldn’t be left without the help Congress has provided for over 20 years,” she said. “When I worked at the state of Iowa, I worked with the Crime Victims Assistance Unit at the Attorney General’s office and saw firsthand what happens when Iowa’s local and state agencies don’t have the resources they need. I’ve supported this legislation since my first day in office, and I’m committed to seeing it reauthorized as soon as possible.”
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 also includes reauthorization and increased funding for critical Services, Training, Officers, and Prosecutors (STOP) grants, a $60 million investment that Axne successfully advocated to increase in 2019.
The STOP Formula Grant Program is awarded to states to enhance the capacity of local communities to strengthen strategies to combat violent crimes against women and to develop and strengthen victim services in cases involving violent crimes against women.
“I know that our domestic violence support networks need increased support,” Axne said. “These grants not only help local law enforcement agencies stop these despicable crimes, but they also ensure we’re protecting and supporting survivors. The increases for the STOP grant program that I pushed for are included in this bill to provide the proper tools and resources needed to better address, combat and prosecute violence against women.”
The landmark Violence Against Women Act of 1994, originally sponsored by then Sen. Joe Biden, codified Congress’s commitment to advancing effective strategies for preventing and responding to domestic and sexual violence, holding offenders accountable and ensuring safety, autonomy and justice for victims.
VAWA guaranteed legal protections for women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence. It was initially passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000, 2005 and 2013. The bill expired at the end of 2018 and was briefly renewed by a resolution reopening the government, but expired again in February 2019.
In the U.S. 1 in 4 women are victims of intimate partner violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In April 2019, Axne and a bipartisan House voted to reauthorize VAWA programs, including new provisions protecting transgender victims and banning individuals convicted of domestic abuse from purchasing firearms, but the measure languished in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The VAWA reauthorization had the support of more than 200 advocacy organizations, including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Network to End Domestic Violence, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Break the Cycle, Legal Momentum, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Organization for Women, MomsRising, Feminist Majority, YWCA USA, AAUW, Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, National Partnership for Women and Families, National Women’s Law Center, National Association of Hispanic Organizations, AFL-CIO, UAW, NAACP, Human Rights Campaign, National Council of Churches and National Congress of American Indians.