You currently do not have JavaScript enabled in your web browser.
The ABA website relies on JavaScript for display purposes.
To fully experience the ABA site, please enable javascript.
CONGRESS MUST RENEW ITS COMMITMENT TO HELPING VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

CONGRESS MUST RENEW ITS COMMITMENT TO HELPING
VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

By
Martha Barnett, President
American Bar Association

When the Violence Against Women Act was enacted in 1994, the federal government for the first time adopted a comprehensive approach to fighting violence against women.

The Act imposed new funding eligibility requirements on state and local governments and authorized grants for education and training for criminal and civil justice personnel. It provided new or increased funding for a range of programs including safe homes for women, shelter grants, rape prevention, and other community programs. The purpose underlying all these funding efforts was to encourage community service agencies to work together to develop cohesive and coordinated services for victims of domestic violence.

The programs created under the Act have made an incredible difference in the lives of many Americans. Services have been created that directly impact and enhance safety for countless battered women and their children, and society now views domestic violence much differently than in 1994.

Domestic violence is no longer acceptable. Law enforcement officers have been trained to respond to domestic violence as the violent crime it is. Courts now seriously consider domestic violence in both criminal and civil cases. Medical providers view domestic violence for the health care issues it presents. Child protective workers acknowledge the extreme and devastating impact domestic violence exacts on children, and agree that violence intervention in homes will result in safer schools and streets. Employers recognize that domestic violence not only impacts the safety of a victimized employee, but may also jeopardize other employees and business patrons -- not to mention the company’s bottom line. We are all safer and more productive because of the Violence Against Women Act.

The Act is scheduled to expire on October 1, 2000, unless Congress reauthorizes it. Reauthorization has been negotiated over the entirety of the 1999-2000 legislative session, with committee action finally taking place in June. No real disagreement now exists over whether the Act should be reauthorized. But there are only 22 legislative days left in this legislative session; Congress must act without further delay to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Editor's Note: For verification, or if you have questions, please call Anne Nicholas, ABA Media Relations and Communication Services, 202/662-1092, or send email to [email protected]. If you use this guest editorial, we would be grateful to receive a tearsheet or other copy: Anne Nicholas, American Bar Association, 740 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005.