With funding set to expire this year, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox urged Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, saying it has been effective in reducing rates of sexual and partner violence.
Fox joined attorneys general from 55 other U.S states and territories in signing a letter to leaders of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Allowing the act to expire, Fox said, would mark a significant step backward in addressing crimes against women.
“It’s an important law that brings resources into our communities to aid victims and to advance prevention efforts,” Fox said. “Over the last few years, at the state level, we have improved the legal and law-enforcement response to sexual assault crimes, and we need to continue moving forward.”
The act was established in 1994 and has brought more than $6 billion in grant funding to government and nonprofit organizations nationwide.
Fox said Montana has received more than $73 million since 2005. The grants have funded training and assistance to address and reduce domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
“VAWA has substantially improved access to advocacy, health care and legal services, but unfortunately, violence against women remains prevalent in all communities,” Tuesday’s letter reads. “Every aspect of our society – rural, suburban, urban, and our tribal communities – has all been impacted by the painful effects of violence against women. The work to eradicate sexual and intimate partner violence is far from complete.”
Fox said the grants provided through the program have also funded resources and services to assist survivors and prosecute offenders. It also has facilitated partnerships between prosecutors, judges, advocates, community organizations and health care providers.
“Through our extensive effort to fight violence against women and support survivors, we have seen that coordinated responses are essential to help survivors through crisis and empower them to live safe and healthy lives,” the signers wrote. “If Congress allows VAWA to lapse, it will mean that millions of survivors will have nowhere to turn, violent crimes against women will increase, and perpetrators of these crimes will go unpunished.”