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Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke on the Senate floor in support of the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act.

The bipartisan legislation authored by Senators Feinstein, Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was signed into law by President Biden yesterday and reauthorized VAWA through 2027.

Video of her remarks can be found here and full text follows:

“I rise today also in recognition of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022. I’m delighted that President Biden signed it into law yesterday as part of the omnibus spending bill.

It’s important to know that this bill reauthorizes critical programs that help respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. It’s long overdue, but today this [bill is now] law.

Last month, I introduced this bill alongside Senators Ernst, Durbin, both of whom are here today, Murkowski, who is also here today, and additional cosponsors. A number of advocates joined us, including Angelina Jolie, to speak about the importance of the legislation.

The bill we introduced…has really strong bipartisan support, including that of 11 Republican cosponsors.

In addition to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act through 2027, the law includes bringing it up to date, and that’s important. It means that existing programs will be able to do an even better job protecting and supporting survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

It’s the result of a truly bipartisan effort and I want to thank Senators Ernst, Durbin, both are on the floor, particularly Senator Murkowski, for working with me to prepare this important piece of legislation. I’m very appreciative of the partnership because the law will become a reality. 

We also had help from a number of our Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle who made important contributions to this effort.

This act plays a critical role supporting law enforcement in their efforts to stop these perpetrators before it’s too late.

It reauthorizes important programs and provides the necessary updates to strengthen them. So what does it do?

First, it enhances and expands services for survivors, including survivors in rural communities, LGBT survivors, survivors with disabilities and survivors who experience abuse later in life. Older people get a lot of violence.

It reauthorizes and strengthens the criminal justice response to domestic violence, including by improving the Justice Department’s STOP grant program and strengthening the ability of tribal courts to address instances of domestic violence on tribal lands.

It also establishes a pilot program that focuses on addressing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking through community-based, victim-initiated efforts to seek accountability.

And the law invests in prevention education efforts that will improve the health care system’s response to sexual violence we hope. And these changes can have a real impact.

Here’s one example: The International Association of Forensic Nurses reports that only one in four U.S. hospitals has a sexual assault forensic nurse on duty.

Our bipartisan law remedies this problem by providing additional funding and training to increase access to forensic nurses, particularly in rural areas where strangely enough a lot of this violence takes place.

Through this bipartisan law, we will make significant improvements to our nation’s response to domestic violence, but I want to caution everybody, it isn’t perfect. I really regret that certain provisions were unable to be included in this bill.

In particular, I had hoped we could include a provision to close the ‘boyfriend loophole.’

Most people don’t know that while individuals convicted of domestic violence against a spouse are prevented from purchasing a firearm, that’s not the case for those convicted of domestic abuse against a dating partner. We tried to get that part passed and it’s very disappointing that there was not sufficient bipartisan support for this provision to close what will remain a dangerous loophole.

So, clearly, we still have work to do. There are those use who follow these assault carefully and make a determination where this bill works and where it might need improvement, and I’ve just suggested one so we will watch those figures carefully.

I’d like to thank the many advocates who provided valuable input and support for this effort. This bill was written in close consultation with the people who are on the front lines helping survivors of domestic violence every day.

For nearly 30 years, the Violence Against Women Act has played a vital role in the federal response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

As Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline noted, the Violence Against Women Act provides survivors with ‘a variety of options to meet their evolving and complex needs for services and support.’

For example, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, in a single day in 2020 there were 76,525 survivors. In one day, 75,000 women were affected. They all received assistance thanks to programs funded and supported by the Violence Against Women Act

So despite the progress made over the last three decades, sexual, emotional and physical abuse are still painful realities for far too many Americans. We need to say this over and over again. We need to change minds and change actions.

More than one in three women and more than one in four men will experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in my home state [of] California, approximately 35 percent of California women and 31 percent of California men will experience violence from intimate partners in their lifetimes. That’s an amazing figure if you think about it.

In conclusion, let me end with this: All too often, these instances of domestic violence have fatal consequences. Every day, people are killed by a current or former intimate partner. This law is long overdue.”

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