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MT Programs Face Cuts If Violence Against Women Act Expires

The Violence Against Women Act has provided greater protections for Native American women on tribal lands. (Marvin Lynchard/U.S. Dept. of Defense)
The Violence Against Women Act has provided greater protections for Native American women on tribal lands. (Marvin Lynchard/U.S. Dept. of Defense)
September 24, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – Federal legislation that funds resources for victims of domestic and sexual violence is set to expire at the end of September.

State attorneys general, including Montana's Tim Fox, and groups across the country are urging Congress to renew the Violence Against Women Act.

Agencies and organizations in Montana have received more than $70 million through the law since 2005. It's directed more than $6 billion nationwide since the bill was enacted in September 1994.

"I really can't overstate the importance of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act,” stresses Robin Turner, public policy and legal director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “It was the first comprehensive federal legislation that was designed to end violence against women, to end gender-based violence."

Turner says the legislation also has created vital protections for Native American women.

When the act was reauthorized in 2013, it granted tribal communities the ability to prosecute non-Native people who commit violence against indigenous women on tribal lands.

Last week, the Senate included a two-month extension of the law in its spending bill. The House is expected to vote on the bill this week.

Turner says these programs play critical roles across Montana, especially in rural parts of the state where no other services typically are available for those facing domestic violence.

"Our programs would be very, very challenged to continue moving forward, and encountering and responding to domestic violence and sexual violence appropriately, if this bill isn't reauthorized and the funding isn't reauthorized," she states.

A proposed reauthorization bill in the House provides additional protections for immigrant survivors of violence. And it includes a provision that closes the so-called boyfriend loophole by prohibiting dating partners under court protective orders from possessing firearms.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT