The Senate passed the re-authorization of the recently expired Violence Against Women Act at the end of last week, after it appeared to have stalled in that political arena.
“Every once in awhile Congress gets a chance to vote on a bill that will literally save lives,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
Maloney is Co-Chairperson of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.
The Violence Against Women Act was originally passed in 1994 and signed into law. It funded and supported federal programs such as the domestic abuse hotline.
In the first year the federal hotlines were in existence, Queens documented more calls of domestic abuse than any of the city’s other boroughs.
In 1999, New York City’s Domestic Violence hotline received nearly 170,000 calls.
Domestic violence is said to be the number one health risk for women aged 15 to 44.
The 1994 act expired September 30th. The re-authorization of it hit a snag in the Senate, which Maloney attempted to end by sending a letter to Senator Trent Lott, urging the bill’s swift passage. The letter was signed by 42 other members of the House of Representatives.
The Senate passed the bill Friday, authorizing more than $3 billion over the next five years to be used to combat domestic violence.
The bill will now be presented to President Bill Clinton, who is expected to sign it.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has praised the legislation.
In official statements he made in support of the re-authorization of the act, he said that his office receives as many as 12,000 complaints of domestic violence per year. These complaints result in around 5,000 arrests.
“Apart from their sheer number, domestic violence cases by their very nature demand special attention,” Brown said. “Prosecutions are unlike other prosecutions because they pose complex emotional and practical issues.”
Mary De Bourbon, spokesperson for the DA’s office said that the 1994 act enabled Queens to instigate comprehensive programs. She said the DA created a bureau specifically for domestic violence cases.
“It’s been really important for us and for women,” she said.
Brown has also supported wider programs, which would address domestic violence victims’ needs, apart from what is required for a criminal proceeding. He commended Congresswomen Nita Lowey for legislation she has introduced to address those needs. He also commended Maloney for her involvement in the issue.
The year 2000 re-authorization of the VAWA bill includes additions to the 1994 legislation. There are specific clauses regarding older and disabled women who suffer abuse.
Maloney said older or disabled women are often turned away from traditional domestic violence shelters due to their special needs.
Aspects of the new re-authorization, she said, include millions of dollars earmarked especially to fund programs for these women.
The re-authorization will continue to fund domestic violence programs through 2005.