Following Tester Efforts, Violence Against Women Act Signed Into Law
Senator was only member of Montana delegation to support reauthorization
As a part of his continued effort to protect victims of violence and strengthen law enforcement, U.S. Senator Jon Tester last week successfully led the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) through the recently signed 2022 federal government funding legislation.
“The Violence Against Women Act is a lifesaving bill for survivors in Montana and across the country, and it’s about time we got these essential programs back up and running,” said Tester. “This legislation provides resources to critical service providers, domestic violence shelters, and Tribal justice initiatives across Montana, and reauthorizing those resources will improve the safety and wellbeing of folks across the Treasure State. I’m proud to have supported these commonsense crime prevention and response efforts for Montana families, and appreciate my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who joined me.”
Tester’s legislation passed with bipartisan support in a 68-31 vote, and he was the only member of the Montana delegation to support it.
First enacted in 1994, VAWA provides resources to protect victims and help survivors of violence, including in Indian Country and rural communities. The VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2021 extends these resources until 2027 and contains improvements to keep communities across Montana safe, including:
- Reauthorizing funding for critical VAWA programs and modernizing efforts to prevent and respond to violence, including health care, housing, legal and other services for survivors of violence
- Improving programs to ensure that VAWA provides access to resources for survivors in rural areas, survivors in Indian Country, LGBTQ survivors, older survivors, and survivors with disabilities
- Providing additional access to victim-centered and trauma-informed care for survivors
- Improving law enforcement response to domestic violence incidents, including additional tools to hold perpetrators accountable and better serve victims of domestic violence
The VAWA reauthorization bill also includes number of provisions to improve public safety in Indian Country, including:
- Expanding special VAWA Tribal jurisdiction and the restoring of Tribes’ ability to hold non-Native perpetrators accountable if they commit sexual assault, child abuse, staking, sex trafficking, or assault a Tribal law enforcement officer in Indian Country
- Improving information sharing between federal and Tribal law enforcement
- Creating new positions within the Department of Justice responsible for coordinating and advising on culturally specific VAWA programs, and providing technical assistance for Tribes and communities applying for grants
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the VAWA Reauthorization Act with bipartisan support in March of 2021, and the Senate included the VAWA Reauthorization Act in the recently signed 2022 “omnibus” funding package.
The government funding bill also provided $575 million for VAWA programs – a $61 million increase over 2021. The bill includes:
- $48 million for VAWA grants to rural communities, $43 million for transitional housing, and $55.8 million in VAWA funding for Tribal governments, coalitions and organizations
- Releases $2.6 billion from the Crime Victims Fund, a $585 million increase, and provides $130 million from the Crime Victims Fund set-aside for Tribal governments and agencies in order to meet the needs of survivors in Indian Country
- $33 million for the Victims of Child Abuse Act
- $14 million for Court Appointed Special Advocates, a $1.5 million increase to provide community support for children who have been abused or neglected
- $151 million for DNA-related and forensic program, including $120 million for Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, to help bring offenders to justice
- Over $58 million to combat the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Person (MMIP) crisis, including $50 million in justice funding for Tribes, $25 million to address MMIP cases, and $5.5 million to implement VAWA special Tribal jurisdiction
Tester is a tireless advocate for women and families in Montana, backing programs and initiatives that help keep communities all over the state safe. He voted to reauthorize VAWA in 2013 and pushed for its reauthorization in 2019. Additionally, in 2021 he helped pass the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act, allowing funds from settlement agreements to be deposited into the Fund and ensuring critical funding for survivors and service providers remains available.