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Congresswoman Escobar Votes to Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Builds Upon Progress and Includes Congresswoman Escobar’s Amendments to Protect Victims of Violence and Child Trafficking or Prostitution

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Vice Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, voted to pass H.R. 1620, a bipartisan, long-term Violence Against Women Act reauthorization.

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 strengthen these life-saving protections for women El Paso, throughout Texas, and across the country.

“For decades, the Violence Against Women Act has stood as a pillar of our essential mission to fight against domestic violence and sexual assault. Unfortunately, the coronavirus health and economic crisis has exposed that too many women across the country continue to suffer the pain and fear of abuse in their homes and in their communities,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “Today, I am proud to join my colleagues to pass this life-saving VAWA reauthorization to protect women and to ensure they are able to live free from violence and fear.”

This VAWA reauthorization builds upon the progress forged over the two-and-a-half decades since this legislation was first passed and includes two amendments offered by Congresswoman Escobar and Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), a Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus.

The first amendment would authorize grants to also be used to better identify and respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking against individuals who have been arrested or have contact with the juvenile or adult criminal justice system, and for strengthening diversion programs and ensure they receive comprehensive victim services. Women of color in particular experience the double trauma of violence and the criminal justice system and this amendment would permit grants to be used to ensure individuals who have contact with the criminal justice system receive the services they need and that they are considered for nonpunitive diversion programs.

The second amendment would require that in order to be eligible for ICJR grants under Sec. 102, applicants must certify that their laws, policies, or practices prohibit the prosecution of minors, defined as under age 18, for prostitution. As of December 2020, there were 19 states that do not have laws against such prosecution, including Michigan and Texas. Nearly all states that do not have a law prohibiting prostitution for minors under age 18 received these grants in FY19 and FY20. Many of these states have tried enacting such laws but have failed for various reasons so this added incentive will help to ensure those states act to stop punishing children who have been sex trafficked. Federal law defines a minor as under 18 in the context of child trafficking or prostitution.

This latest robust and bipartisan long-term reauthorization improves the current law, including by: 

  • Making vital new investments in violence prevention.
  • Strengthening essential protections for the most vulnerable, including immigrant, LGBTQ and Native American women and specifically supporting communities of color in a culturally-sensitive way.
  • Improving services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
  • Making improvements in the criminal justice response to gender-based violence and improving the health care system’s response to domestic violence.
  • Helping stop abusers and stalkers from obtaining firearms.
  • Applying the most rigorous judicial review to laws and government policies that discriminate against women.
  • Ensuring that laws or policies that are inconsistent with equality for women be struck down.

The full text of H.R. 1620, the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization is available here.

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