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Maryland Attorney General & others push domestic violence funding

Domestic violence remains at the center of attention for many lawmakers and government officials, as demonstrated by a letter recently submitted to Congress. Attorneys general from states and territories across the country, including Maryland, delivered a set of letters to Congress, advocating that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) should be reauthorized, citing the facts behind the problems domestic violence poses for American families.

The Violence Against Women Act is a federal law that was passed in 1994. It creates and funds existing programs that aim to prevent domestic violence and intervene in situations where it already exists. The act's goals also include ensuring that law enforcement and others working with the public are properly trained to identify domestic violence (and also identify when it is not present) and how to react to it when it occurs. The act also provides services specifically for those whom have experienced sexual assault as well.

Since the law was passed, over $4 billion has been dedicated to federal, state and local programs to improve services to families affected by domestic violence, including the administration of programs like a batterer's intervention program for those accused of committing domestic violence. Although VAWA expressly refers to women in the title of the Act, the law recognizes that men are also victims of domestic violence.

In addition to keeping programs currently in existence running, the attorneys general have also advocated for the creation of new programs that would focus on improving the ability of specific populations to identify domestic violence and sexual assault. New programs would also focus on improving the working relationship between law enforcement, the judicial system and with families affected by domestic violence, particularly in families going through a divorce.

Congress should make a decision soon about whether VAWA will be reauthorized. Without Congressional reauthorization, programs providing support for families will lose federal funding, threatening the programs' very existence.

Sources: WGMD.com, "DE AG spearheads push for Congress to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act," Mari Lou, Jan. 11, 2012

Justice.gov, U.S. Department of Justice, About the Office, Office on Violence Against Women, Oct. 2011

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