In 1994, under the leadership of Sen. Joe Biden, the Violence Against Women Act was passed by Congress. Recently, House Republicans allowed the VAWA to lapse because they objected to women in the LGBT community, undocumented immigrant women and Native American women from being included in this critical legislation to human rights.

The act strengthened penalties for repeat sex offenders and created a federal "rape shield law" which prevented offenders from using victims' past sexual conduct in judicial proceedings. It mandated that victims not incur the costs of their own rape exams and services related to protective orders. It increased the rate of prosecutions, convictions and sentencing of offenders by assisting local communities in law enforcement, prosecutions and domestic violence dockets.

The VAWA funded and trained over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges on domestic and sexual violence issues.

The VAWA ensured that victims and their families had access to services that promoted their safety and helped rebuild their lives. It established a National Domestic Violence Hotline which responded to over 3 million calls.

The VAWA developed coordinated community responses to prevent and respond to violence against women. The program addressed the needs of under-served communities by providing battered immigrants legal relief. It also supported tribal governments in protecting Native American women where violence against women is much higher than the national average.

Since the VAWA was passed in 1994, domestic partner violence declined by 67 percent and the rate of domestic partner homicides of females declined by 35 percent. A new VAWA bill has been introduced and not one House Republican has signed on.

The House Republicans' failure to extend the VAWA denies women their basic human rights to safety and security. House Republicans in the 113th Congress are off to a great start with their continuing war on women by proposing a bill to defund Planned Parenthood that provides millions of women vital health care services. They've introduced a personhood bill that gives fertilized eggs full constitutional rights. I guess that includes the right to keep and bear arms and own property.

It's time for the Republican Party to exit their bubble and at least enter the 20th century.

David J. Iacono

Westminster

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