Yesterday U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta convened a virtual listening session with Members of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence to discuss the unmet needs of survivors and the ways in which the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) could be improved and strengthened to help to meet those needs. The Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General and Associate Attorney General were joined by leadership of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).
At the outset of the meeting, Attorney General Garland reaffirmed that combatting gender-based violence has long been and remains today a priority for the Justice Department. The Attorney General discussed the department’s FY 2022 Budget request, which includes an historic investment of $1 billion to support the work of the OVW. He noted that he was serving as Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General in 1995 when the Justice Department first established a dedicated office to address domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Deputy Attorney General also shared her own experience working to end gender-based violence, namely as a staff member on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the early 1990’s, when the Violence Against Women Act was first passed. Among the Deputy Attorney General’s responsibilities was gathering personal stories from individual survivors to illustrate the dire need for stronger legal protections.
Members of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence spoke about the importance of VAWA and the work of OVW over the past quarter century, including funding many of our nation’s first comprehensive rape crisis centers; recognizing tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence; dedicating resources to enhance culturally-specific services and reach underserved communities, and reducing homicides through federal firearms prohibitions. The advocates emphasized the critical need for reauthorizing VAWA.
Attorney General Garland and Deputy Attorney General Monaco praised the national advocacy organizations for their efforts on behalf of survivors of sexual and domestic violence and thanked them for sharing their expertise and insights from the field in responding to these crimes. And the Deputy Attorney General closed the meeting by emphasizing the department’s commitment to working tirelessly for the swift reauthorization of VAWA this year, about which she will testify this Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.