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A R T I C L E S* &* S P E E C H E S

Implementing the Violence Against Women Act

By Bonnie J. Campbell
Director, Violence Against Women Office, U.S. Department of Justice

The passage of the Violence Against Women Act as part of President Clinton's 1994 Crime Act was a turning point in our national response to the problems of domestic violence and sexual assault. By combining tough federal penalties with substantial resources to the states and our communities, this legislation has already had an enormous impact on women and families across the country.

Just consider, before the Violence Against Women Act, if a state wanted to train its law enforcement officials on how to respond to domestic violence calls or wanted to provide services and advocates to victims, they often lacked crucial resources. Today, we have already provided more than $130 million in federal dollars for states to train police and prosecutors, and provide assistance to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

This year, the Justice Department is sending $28 million in funding to the states to encourage mandatory arrest policies for the primary aggressor in domestic abuse cases. Too often, a batterer is left at home with his victim because the victim has refused to press charges. This should never be the case.

Before the Violence Against Women Act became law, a batterer who brutally beat his partner and then drove across state lines to leave her at a hospital, would likely escape prosecution because of jurisdictional problems. Today, these batterers are prosecuted, convicted, and sent to jail for years because of the newly created federal crime of interstate domestic violence.

On September 23rd of this year, President Clinton signed federal anti-stalking legislation to enable us to prosecute stalkers who cross state lines to harass victims, even when the victim hasn't sought a restraining order.

Nothing tells us more about the need for the VAWA than the number of calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Since President Clinton announced the creation of the hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE - more than 40,000 calls have come through. Those callers receive crucial information and are linked directly with their local police department, if the call comes during an emergency.

The President and the Administration are committed to fighting violence against women and carrying out the mandate of VAWA in the same spirit of cooperation, consultation and partnership with which it was crafted. The Violence Against Women Act is working because it has provided a catalyst for states and communities to come together, and develop multifaceted, interdisciplinary approaches to these crimes.

At the Justice Department, to commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month during October, we are hosting our second annual Domestic Violence Information Fair. This event, and similar events in other federal offices, is an outgrowth of the President's directive that every federal agency engage in an employee awareness program on domestic violence. In addition, we have sent all 90,000 Justice Department employees a resource booklet and we have created a Violence Against Women home page on the internet. You can reach us at http://www.usdoj.gov/vawo.

In every area of the country, we are seeing activities that were not underway two years ago, activities ranging from new specialized prosecution and law enforcement units to expanded services for previously underserved women. Prosecutors have new tools and victims have enhanced protection. We have a long way to go, but we are closer to the goal of reducing, if not eliminating, violence against women.

Excerpted from WOMANSWORD, Vol. 1, Issue 10, October, 1996.

 

 

 

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