The Department of Justice plans to push for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in an attempt to support stalking victims, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli said Tuesday at a stalking awareness month program.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), sponsored by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), was originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. Although the original act was aimed at ending violence against women, the reauthorizations have included additional protections for battered immigrants, sexual assault survivors, victims of dating violence and under-served populations.
Since President Barack Obama declared January National Stalking Awareness Month, DOJ officials have amplified efforts to end stalking.
“The U.S. Attorneys’ offices are aggressively pursuing interstate stalking cases, often receiving referrals from our local law enforcement partners,” Perrelli said. “We are training our attorneys to understand the dynamics of stalking, including cyberstalking. And the Office on Violence Against Women funds the Stalking Resource Center, which provides technical assistance, training, and resource materials to organizations throughout the United States, including OVW grantees, to build capacity to effectively respond to stalking.”
Attorney General Eric Holder and the director of the Office on Violence Against Women, Susan B. Carbon, also spoke at the event. Also in attendance were Rebecca Dreke, senior program associate at the Stalking Resource Center at the National Center for Victims of Crime, and Cindy Southworth, director at the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
Also present were stalking victim Hannah Perryman and her mother, Debbie Perryman, who spoke of the Illinois teenager’s experience being harassed by one of her peers in a series of episodes that eventually required police intervention.
The majority of children in America, 60 percent, are exposed to crime, violence and abuse, and it is a top priority to reduce it, according to Holder.
“This is unconscionable. And it is unacceptable,” he said.
Last year, DOJ launched the Defending Childhood Initiative in conjunction with the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, the FBI, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the Office of Justice Programs and the Office on Violence Against Women focused on preventing childhood violence and helping children overcome it.
“To date, eight communities have been selected as demonstration sites for testing strategies and compiling research,” Holder said.
“This is about making our communities and neighborhoods feel like places where people can build a family, a business, and a life, free from fear,” Perrelli said.