Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., spoke out about the Violence Against Women Act on Friday, hoping to raise awareness about sexual domestic violence and encourage the House of Representatives to treat the legislation as a priority.
The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act cleared in the U.S Senate earlier this week in a 78-22 vote. The legislation is now up for a vote in the House.
Last year, the act was not reauthorized due to a lack of bipartisanship, McCaskill said at an event at the Boone County Courthouse.
“They did not see that it was urgent enough to be put into law,” she said. “The excuse they used last year is that they don’t want the gay and lesbian populations included."
Under reauthorization, gays and lesbians are included in the provisions. McCaskill said she thinks many Republicans oppose the act because of the new provision.
“I hope we can keep the pressure up,” she said. “And hopefully, the House of Representatives will change their minds and decided that it needs to be one of the most important priorities in the coming weeks.”
McCaskill also spoke about new guidelines in the act that address violence in American Indian and Alaskan native communities.
Currently, the criminal justice systems on American Indian reservations have no way of prosecuting attackers who do not live on reservations, even if it an attack is on an American Indian woman. McCaskill said she is concerned about this loophole.
The reauthorized bill would give governments on reservations the capacity to prosecute attackers.
Regardless of the resistance in the House, McCaskill said she is determined to keep pressure on legislators to pass the bill.
McCaskill said she and Colleen Coble, CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, helped various organizations throughout the state conduct a survey on how many women and children were being treated at shelters, such as True North. The survey concluded that more than 3,000 women were helped in a 24-hour period throughout the state.
McCaskill urged people in Boone County to contact their representatives to support the legislation.
“What I want to do is to make sure that the people in Missouri understand what is at stake because I know how supportive Missouri is of this program,” she said. “If they realize that its getting hung up in partisan gridlock, I know that they will speak up and speak out about this legislation.”