Durbin Statement on the Passage of Bipartisan Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

Legislation Also Includes Vital Durbin-Authored Provisions Dealing with Sexual Violence and Child Marriage

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement today after the House of Representatives passed a five-year reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, sending the bill to the President for his signature. The legislation will help ensure that all victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are protected and that organizations across the country assisting these victims continue to have access to critical funding and resources.


“Since its passage, the Violence Against Women Act has provided valuable and lifesaving assistance to tens of thousands of women across Illinois and to hundreds of thousands of women in America. Over the last 19 years, the rate of domestic violence against women has dropped by more than 50 percent, but there are many more that still need help. This bipartisan bill is our opportunity to show them that when it comes to protecting those who need help, we will be there, “Durbin said.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in four women has experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner and more than one in three women has experienced rape, stalking, or physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.


The reauthorization passed by the Senate today applies lessons learned from those working in the field and places increased emphasis on responding to sexual assault. The bill also encourages jurisdictions to evaluate their rape kit inventories and reduce backlogs, and incorporates important accountability mechanisms to consolidate programs and reduce spending.


Durbin-Led Provisions


Today’s reauthorization, with its amendments, also includes four important Durbin-led, provisions. First, the reauthorization includes language addressing sexual assault in our country’s immigration detention facilities. The provision clarifies that standards to prevent custodial rape must apply to all immigration detainees and ensures that strong regulations protecting immigration detainees will remain in place in the future.


Second, the reauthorization includes a Durbin provision to protect girls in developing countries from forced marriages.  Specifically, the Durbin language requires the implementation of development assistance programs to reduce child marriage in countries where the problem is most prevalent.  The provision mirrors legislation Senators Durbin and Snowe introduced in the most recent Congresses, the Child Marriage Prevention Act.  The Act passed the Senate in both of the last two Congresses. 


“Tens of millions of women and girls around the world have lost their dignity, freedom, and health due to forced child marriage,” Senator Durbin said. “Not only does this despicable practice deny these women and girls an education and economic independence, it is also the root cause of many of the world’s most pressing development issues - HIV/AIDS, child mortality, and abject poverty. Passage of today’s law puts this issue front and center and makes clear that it is the policy of the U.S. government to end child marriage around the globe. These important steps will change the lives of millions in some of the world’s forgotten places.”


Third, today’s bill closes a loophole in the previously passed Child Soldier Prevention Act, which restricted U.S. military funding to countries using child soldiers.  The new provision would similarly restrict the use of U.S. peacekeeping funds for countries that use child soldiers.  Amnesty International estimates that more than 250,000 children are fighting in active conflicts around the globe. In the last decade, two million children have been killed in combat and six million were seriously injured. Finally, the legislation includes a provision to help ensure that child sex trafficking victims nationwide are referred for treatment and services rather than prosecuted as criminals.