March 8, 2013 — At a public ceremony surrounded by women's rights advocates, abuse survivors and lawmakers, President Obama on Thursday signed into law a bill (S 47) to reauthorize and expand the Violence Against Women Act, the New York Times' "The Caucus" reports (Calmes, "The Caucus," New York Times, 3/7).
The measure authorizes $660 million annually over the next five years for victim advocacy groups and programs that prosecute sexual assault and domestic abuse cases and assist survivors. It also prohibits such organizations and programs from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and grants authority to tribal courts to hear cases involving non-Native Americans accused of assaulting Native American women on reservations (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/1).
Obama said, "We've made incredible progress since 1994," when VAWA was first enacted, "but we cannot let up -- not when domestic violence still kills three women a day, not when one in five women will be a victim of rape in [her] lifetime, not when one in three women is abused by a partner" ("The Caucus," New York Times, 3/7).
Obama also highlighted the fact that the bill passed with bipartisan support. Several Republican lawmakers attended the signing ceremony (Jackson, USA Today, 3/7).
Vice President Biden -- the original sponsor of the 1994 bill -- said, "We've all focused on the tragic gun violence that has been in the news lately," adding, "From 2009 to 2012, 40 percent of the mass shootings in America ... where there's four or more people who have been shot, the target has been a former intimate partner or a close family member" ("The Caucus," New York Times, 3/7).
Biden continued, "With all of the law's success, there are still too many women in this country who live in fear of violence" (Epstein, Politico, 3/7).
The ceremony took place as the Department of Justice released a report finding that sexual assault of women and girls has declined by 58% in the past 15 years, which advocates credited to VAWA (Henderson, Washington Post, 3/7).