Attorney General Ford Urges Senate to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

May 4, 2020

COVID-19 pandemic is putting domestic violence victims and survivors at further risk

Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford and a coalition of 23 attorneys general sent a letter urging the U.S. Senate to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which expired more than a year ago. The attorneys general argue that as isolation and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic increase the risk to domestic violence victims, the Senate must act immediately.  

In April of 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill with bipartisan support reauthorizing the Act. After more than a year, the Senate has yet to take up consideration of the bill, nor has it taken up a companion bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. 

“Violence against women has been a public health crisis for generations, and the COVID-19 outbreak shows the urgent need to further strengthen protections for women under federal law,” said AG Ford. “I’m urging the U.S. Senate to quickly adopt this bill for the countless women in Nevada and across the country who are counting on it.”  

The Violence Against Women Act, originally passed in 1994, created an Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice. The Act provides billions of dollars for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, as well as financial support to women in need. The Act has been reauthorized several times, most recently in 2013. Each time Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, it expanded the protections under the law with bipartisan support.

In their letter, the attorneys general note that the COVID-19 pandemic makes reauthorizing the Act even more urgent, as measures to contain the virus can exacerbate isolation, uncertainty, and economic instability, directly affecting victims of domestic violence.

They write: “Reauthorization of [the Violence Against Women Act] will not end the scourge of gender based violence, but it is an important step toward more fully addressing the tragic epidemic. The importance of urgent action is underscored by the particular challenges faced by victims and survivors during the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The proposed House bill expands the protections of the Violence Against Women Act by:

  • Strengthening protections for Native women by expanding jurisdiction of tribal courts over non-Native men who abuse Native women;
  • Codifying important protections for LGBTQ individuals; and
  • Closing the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows certain abusive dating partners to continue possessing firearms under federal law.

In addition to Nevada, other states participating in this brief include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.