While the Violence Against Women Act doesn’t expire until 2018, victim advocates and attorneys are pushing for more changes to made to the law when its reauthorization comes up.  

Victim advocates and county and city attorneys offered their views at a roundtable discussion Monday with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, at Minneapolis’ Harriet Tubman Center.

The advocates and attorneys said they’d like to see some modifications — which mostly involved additional funding — to the act, like access to affordable housing for battered women, child protection needs, additional legal assistance, addressing prevention and lingering concerns over domestic violence among American Indians, among others.

“We have the reauthorization coming up,” Klobuchar said at the event. She said it was important to hear "from all of you who are on the frontline doing the work so we can figure out what changes we can make to make the bill even better.”

Klobuchar and Leahy sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

At the event, Lolita Ulloa, managing attorney of the Hennepin County Domestic Abuse Service Center, said more funding is needed to help provide abused women and families with housing after they leave abusive partners since they are then often left without any or little financial support.

“Last week alone, three times, we were looking for funding for somebody to just move to a safer home,” she said. “The funding for that … is not available.”

Safia Kahn, a program manager for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, said educational programs could help prevent offenders from reoffending, and that educational programs in schools geared toward healthy relationships could also help prevent domestic violence.

Leahy said the difficulty in making changes to the law involves funding, not writing policy.

“We’ll get the laws written but we have to get the money,” he said. “You can write the best laws in the world but … you still need funding for it.”

Enacted in 1994, the act was designed to combat and raise awareness of domestic violence. The act has been credited with helping to reduce domestic violence by 67 percent and has led to an increase in victim reports of sexual and domestic violence.

The most recent reauthorization in 2013, which Klobuchar and Leahy helped pass, expanded the act to include stronger federal stalking laws, addressed sexual assault on college campuses and included more protections for American Indian women, the LGBT community and illegal immigrants.

According to the White House, domestic Violence accounts for two million injuries each year, two deaths a day and costs $8 billion in lost productivity and healthcare costs. 

CHRISTOPHER AADLAND is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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