Senate To Take Up Slightly Revised Violence Against Women Act - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Senate To Take Up Slightly Revised Violence Against Women Act

A piece of legislation intended to help prevent violence against women was held up by Washington politics last year. But now the debate is set to start again in the Senate over the Violence Against Women Act with a measure passing Monday night to take up its renewal this week.

The Violence Against Women Act was originally passed back in 1994. It did things like strengthen federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and create a federal "rape shield law" to prevent alleged offenders from using an alleged victim's past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial. It mandates that victims do not have to pay the costs of a rape exam or the serving of a protection order. It requires that a victim's protection order be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal and territorial jurisdictions within the United States, and helps pay for specialized training of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges about domestic violence every year.

The act has been routinely renewed by Congress over the years without much comment...but last year it stalled in the House of Representatives after the bi-partisan sponsors of the bill attempted to expand its protections to illegal immigrants, same-sex couples and Native Americans. Cheryl Branch, Director of Savannah's Safe Shelter, says politics shouldn't be involved in something so important, "Why wouldn't you as a politician, as a citizen, want to see every perpetrator with the full force of every law behind it, be prosecuted and held accountable? And that's the thing about domestic violence - there's not enough consequences because it's a secret. I think anytime you attack a piece of legislation or anything you weaken all of those links that keep it all together, and I think it's time people just put the politics down and be big boys and girls and say what are we looking at for the greater good, and this is the greater good."

The measure did pass the Senate last April, but both of Georgia's Senators voted against it. News 3 reached out to the two On Tuesday to enquire about their intentions regarding a slightly revamped bill set to go before the Senate this week. Senator Johnny Isakson responded with a statement saying:

"As a husband, a father of a daughter, and a grandfather of five granddaughters, I believe that the existing programs now funded by the Violence Against Women Act should be reauthorized so that local law enforcement and shelters that assist victims of domestic violence continue to receive the support they need."

A statement released by Senator Saxby Chambliss reads: "In recent years, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been non-controversial and has even been passed with unanimous support. There continues to be overwhelming support for the majority of the provisions in the current version of the bill. However, a few recently added, controversial provisions in the current draft give me pause. It is my sincere hope that those provisions will be removed during the amendment process on the Senate floor."

The vote to take up renewal of the act passed 85 to 8 Monday night. All 8 who voted against were Republicans.

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