Politics must not get in the way of a strong law against violence

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In reference to "Senate Votes to Expand Domestic Violence Act" (Feb. 12), the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh urges our community and our members of Congress to support and vote for the immediate reauthorization of a bipartisan Violence Against Women Act. Last year, despite concerted efforts to pass VAWA before the 112th Congress adjourned, our representatives failed to ensure that this critical legislation was reauthorized. For the first time since its passage in 1994, VAWA became a partisan issue. We cannot let this happen again. The Senate overwhelmingly passed S. 47 to reauthorize VAWA (78-22). We must ensure that the House follows suit.

The fact is that VAWA saves lives, supports families and must be reauthorized. The Senate has passed a strong, bipartisan bill that makes important improvements to ensure the safety of all victims of violence, including LGBT, immigrant and Native women. The YWCA supports all women and victims of abuse regardless of sexual orientation, immigration status or race. We oppose isolating entire subsets of the community who face unique barriers to accessing services. We are against any legislation that forces victims to negotiate their safety when seeking assistance from abusive situations.

As a result of VAWA funding, YWCAs across the country provide critical services for victims of violence, including referral to local emergency shelters and supportive services for women and children, short-term and transitional housing for women and children, therapy for children who have witnessed or experienced violence in their homes, and prevention and intervention programs for teens.

As the YWCA serving more than 63,000 women and families in the Pittsburgh area, we are strongly opposed to any legislation that excludes protections for some of the most vulnerable victims of violence. The YWCA Greater Pittsburgh urgently calls upon Congress to immediately work toward crafting a bipartisan bill that is trauma-informed, victim- and community-centered and evidence-based. It's time to take the politics out of domestic violence and hold Congress accountable for helping ensure that all women are safe and free from fear.

MAGDELINE E. JENSEN

Chief Executive Officer

YWCA Greater Pittsburgh

Downtown

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