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Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act Awaits Senate OK

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (nito/Adobe Stock)
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. (nito/Adobe Stock)
October 3, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. – Six months after its reauthorization passed in the House of Representatives, the Violence Against Women Act remains untouched by the Senate.

Advocates who protect women against domestic violence want to see the bill picked up again.

Janelle Moos, executive director of the Council on Abused Women’s Services (CAWS) North Dakota, says North Dakota passed domestic violence protections in the late 1970s.

The federal legislation signed into law in 1994 meant protection orders in North Dakota were valid in other states and people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence could have their firearms removed.

Moos says it gave police better tools as well.

"It also provided substantial resources for law enforcement so we could train law enforcement on the dynamics of domestic violence so they were understanding that, looking at pro-arrest policies, making sure they had the tools that they needed to keep victims safe when they're responding to those calls," she explains.

Moos says the bill also has helped advocates support victims, including establishing shelters.

Reauthorization of the bill this month would be fitting, as October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Richard LeMay, executive director of Legal Services of North Dakota, says his organization receives grants to help victims of domestic violence maintain protection orders and provide legal advice.

He says the Violence Against Women Act changed the perception of domestic abuse, noting that this issue was mostly kept in the closet before the law.

"Through the efforts of Congress in the '90s and, actually, President Clinton signing the act, that brought things out into the light,” he states. “And so, from that point on, now we've been dealing with things more openly."

One change Moos hopes the Senate will keep when it considers the Violence Against Women Act is a provision that closes the so-called "boyfriend loophole."

"As victims choose to move forward and break away from that violent relationship, we know the lethality increases and having access to firearms is just another means of having control over that survivor,” she explains. “So we want to make sure if you're in a dating relationship, you have the same rights, the same protections."

Disclosure: Legal Services of North Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Native American Issues, Poverty Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND