Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act Passes Congress, Heads to President’s Desk
Legislation led by Senators Murkowski, Feinstein, Ernst and Durbin to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and harassment
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization Act of 2022, led by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), alongside U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Dick Durbin ( D-IL), goes to the President to be signed into law. This bipartisan legislation, which was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, reauthorizes VAWA through 2027, preserves the advances of previous reauthorizations, and strengthens and modernizes the nearly 30-year-old law.
VAWA’s reauthorization expands prevention efforts, supports and protects survivors, and holds perpetrators accountable for their violent acts. It provides increased resources for law enforcement and our justice systems, including in Indigenous communities, while improving access to essential support services such as health care and safe housing for victims.
“Our goal with VAWA is to ensure that women are safe and that every victim has a path to justice. I am proud that our legislation, which we developed on a strong bipartisan basis, will soon become federal law. Thanks to the work of countless advocates and survivors, I am confident this will improve the lives and increase the safety of women across the country,” said Senator Murkowski. “In 2020, more than half of women surveyed in Alaska had experienced domestic violence, sexual violence, or both in their lifetime. We know we have to address the current crisis of violence – and now the necessary resources are on the way to create safer communities for all women.
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Provisions of the bill
- Tribal title: The VAWA reauthorization includes the tribal title of Senators Murkowski and Brian Schatz (D-HI), which addresses the epidemic of violence in tribal communities across the country and in Alaska. The title restores and further expands tribal jurisdiction over offenders who commit domestic violence and related crimes, closing jurisdictional gaps left by VAWA 2013, while improving access to national crime databases for tribal governments, enhancing existing grant programs and permanently licensing the Bureau of Prisons. Tribal Law and Order Program. The tribal title further includes Murkowski’s Alaska Tribal Public Safety Empowerment pilot program, which aims to address the public safety crisis in Alaska Native villages. The Alaska Pilot will allow a limited number of tribes in Alaska, on a pilot basis, to exercise special tribal criminal jurisdiction on a concurrent basis with the state. It does not repeal Public Law 280 or create any Indian country in the state.
- Bree’s Law: Murkowski worked with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on a provision called Bree’s Law, named after Breanna (Bree) Moore, a 20-year-old Alaskan who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2014. She leads educational initiatives to empower young people, parents and advocates to recognize, prevent and mitigate teen dating violence. This provision authorizes a grant program for the purpose of developing education and prevention programs relating to teen dating violence. It also establishes an interagency task force to address teen dating violence comprised of various federal agencies, parents of teen victims of dating violence, and survivors of teen dating violence. The interagency task force will submit an annual report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailing the best recommendations for reducing and preventing teen dating violence.
- Law guaranteeing medico-legal care to all victims: Murkowski worked with Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) on the Guaranteed Medical-Legal Care for All Victims Act. This initiative will improve access to forensic pathology for victims of interpersonal violence by authorizing demonstration grants to provide evidence-based and trauma-informed training for a broad group of providers, including service providers. emergency, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physicians, and community health aides and practitioners. The legislation builds on the work of the Alaska Comprehensive Training Forensic Academy, a pilot program run by the University of Alaska, Anchorage, which ensures there are healthcare providers in rural communities who can provide basic medico-legal services to all victims of violence.
- Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act: Murkowski, along with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), drafted the Supportive Care Survivors Access Act (SACSA) to help improve and expand health services for survivors of sexual assault. SACSA directs HHS to establish a nationwide training and continuing education pilot program to expand access to health care for sexual assault survivors and develop federal standards for testing and treatment. It is establishing a pilot grant program to expand forensic examination training to new providers to increase access to sexual assault response. This provision also creates a National Sexual Assault Task Force to better understand sexual assault health care services and better meet the needs of victims.
In addition to Senators Murkowski, Feinstein, Ernst and Durbin, the original VAWA reauthorization co-sponsors include Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Susan Collins (R-ME), Patty Murray (D-WA), Shelley Moore Capito (R – WV) Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), John Cornyn (R-TX), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) Ron Wyden (D-OR), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Richard Burr (R-NC).
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