Making changes in national law to protect victim/survivors of domestic violence!

New York

ACTION ALERT * VAWA

***ACTION ALERT***

Crew –

I realize I usually send you information regarding the Texas legislative process and so you may be surprised to see an email and an action alert from me especially because the Texas legislature will not be in session until January 2013. This email relates to important efforts TCFV and our partners have taken on at the federal level.

For the past year, Congress has been working on the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA is a coordinated civil and criminal legal and direct services approach that has worked for over almost two decades. In 2011 alone, Texas received $8.8 million in grants that help communities all over the state take violence against women seriously. I myself served as a VAWA-funded prosecutor and so saw the direct impact to our efforts at keeping vicitms safe and holding offenders accountable.

Bottom line: VAWA represents the federal government’s robust, comprehensive and successful approach to addressing intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The Congressional authorization of VAWA must be renewed from time to time and in fact the authorization for the past cycle expired almost two years ago. TCFV has been participating and monitoring the progress of Reauthorization, including getting into the details of the various bills and offering direct feedback to national partners and the Texas elected delegation. Whereas in the previous two cycles of VAWA Reauthorization the bill drew no opposition, this time around Congress has not come to consensus as easily.

The good news is that the Senate has already passed S.1925; this bill represents the most thoroughly vetted and bipartisan approach to Reauthorization. TCFV supports S.1925 and asks that you do so as well. If you would like to appraise the bill yourself, you can find the full text at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s1925. The bill passed the Senate by a margin on 68-31.

The House has also taken up the measure with its HR 4970. Although the House version contains significant components of S.1925, it also omits and incorporates different provisions that will harm victims and their service provision. Among several areas of concern are the significant erosion of protection for immigrant victims of violence and the increase of bureaucracy and resulting expense that would come from direct victim services funding. If you are interested, here is the entire bill –http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20120514/BILLS-112-HR4970RH.pdf.

Two important steps in the process most likely will occur this week. First, the powerful House Rules Committee will determine this Tuesday how the debate will occur when the overall House votes on the bill. The Rules Committee will decide whether members will be allowed to offer changes to the bill and even whether debate on the bill can occur on the House floor. TCFV calls for the inclusion of amendments that protect vulnerable immigrant victims and others, a debate of the bill on the House floor and allowing the introduction of amendments during the debate.

Second, the bill will go to the full House for a vote. In preparation for that vote, TCFV calls on Texas House members to support changes to HR4970 that conform with S.1925 to the greatest extent possible.

In service of these goals, TCFV continues to work with our Congressional partners to offer solutions regarding the provisions. This is where you can help.

We have drafted the attached letter that you can use to communicate your support for S.1925 and the needed changes to HR 4970; Texas family violence programs, their boards and community partners will be particularly impactful, but contacts from others will also help. Because time is of the essence, we ask that you make contact today and do so by email rather than a traditional letter. TCFV makes careful and strategic decisions about how often and in what manner to call on programs and supporters to make this kind of outreach. We ask for you to do so because we judge this stage and this approach to be key in the VAWA Reauthorization process.

Do you know who represents you in Congress? Find out at http://www.house.gov/representatives/.

In addition to your elected members, also consider including:
-Chairman Lamar Smith, who leads the Judiciary Committee (http://lamarsmith.house.gov/)
-Congressman Pete Sessions, who serves on the Rules Committee (http://sessions.house.gov/)

I have also attached a fact sheet which highlights some key areas of HR 4970 that we ask the House to change.

After the House completes it work on VAWA Reauthorization, the Senate and the House would then need to convene a Conference Committee comprised of Senate and House members to work out the differences between the two versions of the bill. Following that conference committee work, the resulting bill would then return to both chambers for their ratification. These will also be important steps and as such TCFV will communicate with you in a strategic manner and at strategic points along the way.

Questions? I am happy to speak with you on VAWA or any topic. See below for my card with my cell number.

Cheers –

Aaron


Joyful Heart Bringing About Change to NY’s DNA Sexual Assault Laws

The use of DNA technology has revolutionized the criminal justice system in the United States. It has meant that perpetrators are held accountable for their crimes, survivors receive the justice they deserve and thousands more are spared the trauma and pain of sexual violence.

Studies show that individuals who commit serious crimes, like rape, are generally serial offenders who have also been convicted of lower-level misdemeanors. A single DNA sample often matches to multiple cold cases when entered into the New York DNA Databank. In fact, since New York began collecting DNA samples for some misdemeanor convictions in 2006, offender profiles from shoplifting and criminal trespass convictions alone have matched to 332 sexual assault cases.

And yet, current law limits the collection of DNA samples for entry into the Databank to offenders convicted of penal law felonies and only certain misdemeanors. As a result, the Databank captures offender profiles for only 46% of crimes in the state penal law.

It is now time for New York to use DNA to its fullest potential.

Please join Mariska, the Joyful Heart Foundation and a broad-based coalition of advocates, including the Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims, in supporting efforts to expand the New York DNA Databank. Send a message to your New York State representatives today, encouraging them to pass a bill that will bring healing and justice to survivors, hold violent offenders accountable, solve and prevent crimes and avoid wrongful conviction.

Click here to send your message.

Visit www.dnastopscrime.com to learn more about expanding New York State’s DNA Databank.


Memo from the Coalition of Women Prisoners about and in support of the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (A.7874-A/S.5436)

We received this recently to add to our blog site about this law being presented in the Courts. What is particularly interesting to note, besides the attempt to have alternative sentencing for (verified) victims of domestic violence to be considered who have committed crimes against the abuser, it also denotes specifically psychological abuse as well, which seems to be left out of many legislation about domestic violence oftentimes.

Let us know your thoughts on the DV Survivors Justice Act.

P.S.
(You may need to double click on the link below to see the actual memo sent to us.) Thanks!

DV SJA CWP Spt Memo 5-24-11 FINAL


We begin.. March 2012

We are fascilitating a voice to change established State laws to the national level through awareness to the masses about the issues surrounding domestic violence victims and survivors, which are trying to make a movement to provide guidance from the national level in helping to better protect the victims and survivors of domestic violence. Guest bloggers, who are already domestic violence advocates and/or already experts in the field of domestic violence laws and the need for change to incur to better protect all victims and survivors in the future, will also provide input to help provide further structure and guidance in advocating for changes. Enjoy and be prepared to be informed, have continued education on these issues and receive call to actions as we proceed with our efforts! We encourage victims and survivors to provide input through the comment and/or occasional guest blogging.

Heather Piedmont, Policy Director &
Kathryn Krastin, Advocacy Director & Technical Support


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