Ernst, Murkowski offer sweeping bipartisan bill to modernize, reauthorize VAWA

U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) unveiled comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) through 2027 that also provides several key provisions to improve the current law.

“As a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, I know firsthand the horrific experience too many women face at the hands of a perpetrator,” Sen. Ernst said. “That’s why for three years I’ve worked diligently and across the aisle to craft a bill that will modernize this important law to ensure my fellow survivors are supported and empowered. I’m proud our work resulted in bipartisan legislation that can do just that.”

Sen. Ernst and Sen. Murkowski on Feb. 9 signed on as two of 19 original cosponsors of the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022, S. 3623, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Other cosponsors include U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Rob Portman (R-OH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

“The provisions in this reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act will not only address the barriers survivors face in seeking justice, but will save countless lives,” said Sen. Murkowski. “This bipartisan legislation works to empower victims, bolster supportive services to those who have been victims of violence, strengthen law enforcement, and improve existing statutes to close loopholes, and correct injustices that have existed even before VAWA’s inception.”

Sen. Murkowski also pointed out that communities in her home state of Alaska have lacked a way to seek help or justice for too long. “This legislation addresses those existing problems and will help communities in preventing violence toward women and children and keep them safe,” she said. “That is our ultimate goal.”

If enacted, S. 3623 would extend the Rape Prevention and Education grant program and improve grants focused on prevention education for students in institutions of higher education, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

Additionally, the bill would reauthorize the U.S. Justice Department’s STOP Violence Against Women Formula Program, known as the STOP Program, and expand it to better support survivors aged 50 years or older, as well as survivors with disabilities, the summary says.

The Senate bill also would reauthorize and update both the SMART Prevention Program to reduce dating violence, help children who have been exposed to domestic violence, and engage men in preventing violence; and the National Resource Center on Workplace Response to support sexual harassment victims.

Among numerous other provisions, S. 3623 would protect Native American women by improving tribal access to federal crime information databases and authorize a grant program to provide community-specific services for LGBT survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, according to the bill summary.

“This bill is the result of a true bipartisan effort, written in partnership with those working to prevent violence and support survivors,” Sen. Feinstein said. “I hope the Senate will move quickly to pass it.”