WASHINGTON, April 26 - The Senate voted 68-31 Thursday to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the federal law to help women and children escape abuse.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was a cosponsor of the bill authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
"The act has been extremely successful in Vermont and across the country," Sanders said. "While we are reducing the incidence of domestic violence, much more has to be done. Too many girls and women are still suffering from domestic violence and sexual abuse and that must end. I applaud Sen. Leahy for leading the effort to reauthorize this extremely important law."
Since the law was first enacted in 1994, the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped by more than 50 percent. At the state level, laws were passed in all 50 states making stalking a crime and criminal rape statutes have been strengthened.
The Senate bill, which now goes to the House, would for the first time include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence and let more battered illegal immigrants claim temporary visas. It also would broaden the reach of domestic violence programs to include Indian tribes and more rural areas, expand free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, and extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking.
On Saturday in Montpelier, Vt., Sanders and former Gov. Madeleine Kunin are scheduled to address a Unite Against the War on Women rally outside the Statehouse.