Several local and federal officials have called on the passing of the Senate version of the extension of the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) to help curb the problem nationally and locally.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) held a roundtable discussion on domestic violence at Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department headquarters in Upper Marlboro on May 31. After that discussion, Cardin and others called on congress to pass the Senate measure.

“The Violence against Women Act has a proven track record of protecting women from domestic violence and it is hard to understand opposition to legislation with the goal of curbing domestic violence,” said Cardin in a statement. “Saving women’s lives should not be a partisan issue.”

Domestic Violence is a huge issue in Prince George’s County and the problem doesn’t seem to be going away easily. According to Maryland Courts, in 2010, 4,287 peace order cases were filed in the county – over 450 more than just two years earlier. In that same year; nearly 18,000 domestic violence cases were reported statewide. Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, who has made the prosecution of domestic violence a priority, says the passing of VAWA would go a long way in assisting her in that effort.

“For more than a decade, my office has received funding from the Violence against Women Act and that has allowed our domestic violence unit to provide greater services to victims of abuse,” Alsobrooks said in a statement. “Without this funding, we would lose a domestic violence advocate and a prosecutor who is assigned specifically to domestic violence cases, reducing our ability to help victims.”

The Senate Version of the bill was passed with no problem, but the House version has many Democrats steaming . They say House Republicans have stripped the Senate version of key measures including protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered victims, protection for immigrants, and weakens tribal authority over domestic violence incidents in Native American communities. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill and legislators say GOP representatives need to come back to the table.

“The simple truth is that the House Republican VAWA reauthorization rolls back protections for domestic violence victims and survivors,” said Rep. Donna Edwards (D.-Md.). “House Republicans stand poised to endanger victims by notifying their abusers and deterring immigrant victims from reporting crimes. To eliminate those protections for immigrant women or shut off access to services for LGBT victims is inconsistent with the spirit of the 1994 law and its subsequent reauthorizations.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have claimed that the some provisions in the Senate version are unnecessary and are just bureaucratic. Rep. Sandy Adams, R.-Fla., who was a victim of domestic violence herself, sponsored the House bill. She says all the Democrats are doing is politicizing the issue.

“Turning this re-authorization into a political issue is not only wrong, but it is dangerous,” Adams said on the House floor on May 16. “We cannot let violence in this country become a campaign issue. It must be a reflection of our best efforts as Americans united against breaking a cycle of violence and helping victims become survivors.”

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO