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Congresswoman Slaughter vows to fight for key domestic abuse law

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter discusses the Violence Against Women Act Thursday.
Tianna Manon
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter discusses the Violence Against Women Act Thursday.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter will spend the next several months fighting to reauthorize a law she says contributed to decreasing rates of domestic violence.  

The Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994. The law beefs up law enforcement’s ability to arrest potential abusers, provides funding for local centers and programs to give aid to the abused and offers legal protections for victims.

The Fairport Democrat credits the law with contributing to the huge decrease in domestic abuse rates. In the last 24 years, national rates of reported abuse have fallen by 64 percent.

“Since it’s been enacted, the annual incidents of domestic violence has fallen by two-thirds,” said Slaughter. “That is a remarkable achievement. Not a lot of laws that we’ve passed have that kind of payoff and the reporting, which is most important, of domestic violence has increased by as much as 51 percent.”

The law depends heavily on law enforcement and treating victims. Officers have the power to arrest potential abusers during a domestic violence call. In fact, they are mandated to do so. Officers must arrest potential abusers if they inflict felony-level abuse.

But critics say the law depends too much on over-policing and not enough on the roots of abuse, particularly on socio-economic status, which can be a big predictor for abuse. But Slaughter stands by the law and her claim of its impact.

“For the first time, I think people understood that it was going to be taken seriously and people have gone to jail over it,” she said. “We talk about when you go to the door on a domestic violence case. In the old days they used to go and they’d say ‘Oh I’m going to be fine, it’s ok,’ then they close the door and leave and she’d get beaten again.”

The grant also helps fund local organizations, like the YWCA, so victims can get proper aid to heal and move on with their lives.

“Monroe County alone this past year received $5 million in funding under the law just since it was last reauthorized,” said Slaughter.

That was in 2013 and, before that, it was reauthorized in 2005, both with changes to the law. Last time, immigrants and people who identify as LGBT were included in the reauthorization to allow victims of abuse protection from being deported if they report the abuse or leave their partner. Under a Republican administration however, the law is in danger. Slaughter says she worries the law won’t be reauthorized before it expires in September, at the end of the federal fiscal year.