Press Release from Senator Reed's office
PROVIDENCE, RI -- Domestic abuse and sexual violence are serious problems that must be addressed. But efforts to pass legislation that would help thousands of victims escape their abusers is being blocked by some in Congress.
Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed joined advocates from Sojourner House and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence in calling for action and swift passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), the federal law which provides Rhode Island with funds for hotlines, shelters, and training and education for nurses and law enforcement to help prevent domestic violence and protect victims from their abusers.
"The Violence Against Women Act is literally a lifeline that helps victims escape their abusers. Without critical support from VAWA and places like Sojourner House and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, victims and their kids can remain trapped in abusive situations and the cycle of violence continues. VAWA is effective. It saves lives and taxpayer dollars. It should be renewed so we can build on effective programs like the ones at Sojourner House that are making a real difference in people's lives," said Reed, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee which oversees federal funding for the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women programs.
"The Violence Against Women Act has provided a mechanism for local community-based agencies like Sojourner House to provide critical services to survivors and victims of domestic violence on a daily basis. We praise Senator Reed and the rest of Rhode Island's Congressional delegation for supporting the re-authorization of VAWA, which would allow these services to be made available to all individuals who may need to access them," said Vanessa Volz, Executive Director of Sojourner House, which offers 24-hour assistance to victims of domestic violence, providing emergency support and crisis intervention, shelter, counseling, and legal advocacy.
"For nearly two decades, the Violence Against Women Act has had bipartisan support in Congress and has provided Rhode Island with vital funding and critical protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. We applaud Senator Reed for his leadership in helping to fully fund VAWA and help the most vulnerable members of our community. We are counting on Congress to work toward a bipartisan bill that remains true to and builds upon VAWA's two decades of success in protecting all victims of domestic and sexual violence," said Zulma Garcia, Director of Policy for the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
According to the most recent statistics from the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 15,000 hotline/helpline calls were answered and over 10,000 domestic violence victims in Rhode Island sought services in 2010.
While the U.S. Senate recently voted 61-38 to pass a bipartisan version of VAWA (every female Republican Senator voted for the reauthorization bill), the U.S. House of Representatives refuses to act on the bipartisan version and instead has insisted on trying to roll back existing law and remove long-standing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Sojourner House offers a comprehensive network of support that helps victims of domestic violence rebuild their lives, piece by piece. The center provides emergency support and crisis intervention, shelter, counseling, and legal advocacy, and addresses any other special needs a victim might have. Additionally, the agency supports the Rhode Island community in domestic violence prevention by offering a variety of educational and awareness programs. Since 1976, Sojourner House has served over 50,000 individuals.
The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) was formed in 1979 to support and enhance the work of our member agencies, and to provide statewide leadership on the issue of domestic violence. The RICADV and its taskforce of survivors, Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships (SOAR), work to end domestic violence, create justice for victims, and create awareness on the issue of domestic violence in Rhode Island through work on prevention, public policy, and media outreach.
"This really is a life or death issue for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. We need a strong, inclusive Violence Against Women Act that protects all victims. Congress needs to work together to strengthen and renew VAWA," concluded Reed.