WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bipartisan legislation championed by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today passed the U.S. Senate today. The Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized by a vote of 68 to 31 and would continue to help law enforcement combat domestic violence across the nation. The final bill included a provision similar to legislation introduced by Klobuchar and U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) to help law enforcement more effectively target high-tech predators. Klobuchar also introduced an amendment today to help reduce the backlog of rape kits that need testing. The measure received 57 votes, just under the 60 votes needed to be included as part of the larger VAWA reauthorization bill.
“The only difference between a person who beats someone up in a dark alley and a person who beats someone up in their own living room is a closed door. Violence is violence, regardless of where it takes place,” Klobuchar said. “I fought hard to pass this legislation, ensuring that law enforcement have the tools they need to prevent and prosecute domestic violence and victims receive the support they deserve to get back on their feet.”
The Violence Against Women reauthorization contains many of the provisions that make important changes to the current law, such as consolidating duplicative programs and streamlining others; providing greater flexibility for how communities utilize resources; and including new training requirements for people providing legal assistance to victims.
The legislation also includes a provision similar to bipartisan legislation Klobuchar and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced earlier this year, called theStalkers Act. Their bill would strengthen and update federal anti-stalking laws to better address the new technology predators are using to harass their victims. Current federal anti-stalking laws are outdated and may not effectively cover all acts of electronic surveillance and other means of stalking, including spyware, bugging, video surveillance, and other new technology used by modern-day stalkers. Klobuchar’s and Hutchison’s provision empowers law enforcement to prosecute any act of stalking that would “reasonably be expected” to cause a person serious emotional distress. ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, a victim of cyberstalking, has previously joined Klobuchar to call for stronger federal anti-stalking laws.
Klobuchar’s amendment that she offered today would have reauthorized the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program through 2017. The program has been effective in reducing rape kit backlogs and would help law enforcement better collect and use evidence in sexual assault cases, and help all levels of the criminal justice system work together to ensure that rape kits are tested. While the amendment wasn’t included in the final VAWA reauthorization bill, it was endorsed by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence which represents over 1,000 organizations across the nation.
Klobuchar also recently led the effort to pass bipartisan legislation, signed into law last year, supporting survivors of sexual assault in the military. The bill ensures long-term preservation of sexual assault victims’ records, which can help veterans seek medical and disability assistance. Klobuchar led the successful effort to gather all 17 women senators as cosponsors of the bill before it became law.