Maryland programs for domestic violence victims could be hurt if the Violence Against Women Act isn't reauthorized by Congress.
The proposed legislation, which provides about $660 million over a five-year period, would fund programs aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence, education on prevention and legal aid for survivors, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) has implored the House to pass the Senate’s version of VAWA.
“The Violence Against Women Act has a proven track record of protecting women from domestic violence and it is hard to understand opposition to legislation with the goal of curbing domestic violence,” Cardin stated in a press release. “Saving women’s lives should not be a partisan issue.”
“Can we stop the election-year gimmicks? Can we stop these manufactured wars that pit one group of Americans against another group of Americans?” freshman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) asked in mid May on the House floor, according to theChristian Science Monitor.
The Senate passed its version in April.
The U.S. House of Representatives' version, passed in May, does not explicitly define that VAWA would cover the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans. It leaves the language up to local law enforcement to interpret.
The House version also doesn’t protect the rights of Native American women to take their abusers to court, rather only allowing them to apply for a protective order from U.S. court system.
Finally, it doesn’t allow for women in the country illegally to apply for citizenship if they work with law enforcement in a domestic violence investigation. Republicans believe the provision would be used for amnesty, while Democrats believe those victims wouldn’t come forward to report abuse in fear of deportation.
“The statistics of domestic violence are alarming, yet, domestic violence remains one the most under-reported crimes in the country,” Cardin added in the statement. “These victims need to know that they have our support, including access to justice, help with housing, medical care, and economic opportunity.”
According to the county’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team report, one in four women will be the victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. In 2009, there were more than 18,500 reported cases of domestic abuse and 38 fatalities in Maryland.
In 2010, there were 10,574 protective order and peace order filings in the county’s court system, which is one-fifth of the 50,363 filings statewide.
Prince George’s County Police Capt. Steven Yuen said there were 55 domestic homicides reported between 2007 and 2011. Yuen said although police dispatch receive a large number of domestic related calls, it does not mean all the calls were for a domestic violence incident.
Domestic Related Calls for Service
10Total 75,577 55
“Combating domestic violence remains a primary focus of the Prince George’s County Police Department," Prince George’s County Police Chief Mark Magaw said. "Our collaborative partnerships with all involved stakeholders will ensure this important public safety issue gets the attention it deserves."