Over 150 faith and non-profit groups have signed a letter to Congress urging them to reauthorize a 1994 law that will help protect women against violence.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which creates an office within the Department of Justice to develop federal policies around the issue, is the nation's "single most effective tool in responding to the devastating crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking and provides lifesaving programs and services," the advocacy groups say.
According to reports, since VAWA's original passage in 1994, and its reauthorizations by Congress in 2000 and 20005, more victims of domestic violence have reported their cases to police, the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by over 60 percent, and an estimated $14.8 billion in social costs have been averted.
"As representatives of diverse faith traditions, we are committed to ensuring that all women live without fear of violence," write the groups, which include the National Council of Churches, the Islamic Society of North America, the Association of Jewish Family & Children's Agencies, Catholics for Family Peace Committee, and the Interfaith Community Against Domestic Violence, among others.
"We believe that VAWA reauthorization gives lawmakers an opportunity to build upon previous successes and make critical improvements to meet the changing needs of victims and provide more avenues for assistance and support," they add.
Services that have been provided and expanded by VAWA include community violence prevention programs, protections for victims who are evicted from their homes because of events related to domestic violence or stalking, funding for victim assistance services, like rape crisis centers and hotlines, programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races or ethnicitie programs and services for victims with disabilities, legal aid for survivors of violence, and other services.
A full text of the letter to Congress can be viewed here