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Senator seeks federal action to combat domestic violence; cites 43,000 cases in New York State

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called on his colleagues to pass the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that would give law enforcement the necessary tools to fight back against rampant domestic violence throughout Upstate New York. Schumer’s call comes amidst new figures from the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services that show about 43,782 domestic abuse incidents in which law enforcement was called to the scene in 2011 in Upstate New York. VAWA, which is expected to come for a vote in the Senate on Thursday, would reauthorize a number of federal programs which encourage collaboration among law enforcement, judicial personnel, and public and private service providers to victims of domestic and sexual violence. On the call, Schumer highlighted key provisions of this law, including grants to help train cops in stopping domestic and dating violence, and provisions to toughen federal anti-stalking laws to include digital harassment through the internet and social media. Schumer will also highlight that the legislation would send specialized resources to law enforcement, education and sexual assault response teams in rural, underserved areas of New York. Schumer noted that the vital law has decreased domestic violence by 50% since its creation in 1994, but expired for the first time in 2011.

“There is nothing more important than protecting our women, children and other victims of domestic violence, and I’m calling on my Senate colleagues to pass this life-saving legislation without further delay,” said Schumer. “For years, the Violence Against Women Act has helped send life-saving dollars to Upstate New York communities to develop specialized law enforcement units, train professionals in handling domestic violence and sexual assault, improve prosecutions of these crimes, and provide services to victims. With a 50 percent reduction in domestic violence since this sweeping safety law was first put in place, we can ill-afford to lose these resources, and this bill simply must pass the Senate and then the House of Representatives as soon as possible.”

On the call, Schumer provided most recent annual county-by-county data on the number of reported domestic violence cases, according to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services. The original 1994 VAWA bill, which was authored by Schumer when he was a member of the House, has been reauthorized twice – in 2000 and 2005 – with unanimous Senate approval. Since its enactment, the bill has reduced domestic violence by more than 50 percent. However this life-saving, bipartisan bill expired in 2011. Many of the programs have continued to receive funding over the last year thanks to continuing resolutions passed by the House and Senate. In the 112th Congress, the Senate bill had 61 cosponsors, including 8 Republicans. It passed out of the Senate in April 2012 with an impressive 68-31 votes, but was never taken up in the House.

Since 2006, law enforcement agencies across the state have received over $145 million in federal funds through programs included in the Violence Against Women’s Act. The legislation on the Senate floor this week would renew several successful programs and provides funding for training, education and outreach to help state and federal agencies do a better job of preventing violence against women and assisting victims of domestic violence. The legislation also includes new programs designed to specifically combat internet stalking and other uses of social media that can lead to domestic violence. The bill would extend these grant programs and critical protections for an additional 5 years.

In the most recent annual data set, there were over 43,000 cases in Upstate New York in which local, county, or state police officers were called to the scene of a domestic violence complaint, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.