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Updates To Violence Against Women Act Go Into Effect

New Jersey residents may have noticed when President Obama recently enacted updated protections in the Violence Against Women Act, which had lapsed for about 18 months. The new legislation, enacated March 7, includes added protections for gays, illegal immigrants and Native Americans after delays bogged down the bill in the politics that surrounded the election. Despite initial division along party lines, resistance to the bill eventually lessened enough so that it could pass.

Although statistics document an almost two-thirds decrease in crimes of sexual violence against females over the age of 11 in the past 10 years, the number of sexual attacks against women in 2010 was still reported to be about 270,000. Supporters attribute the decrease in part to the initial provisions in the Violence Against Women Act and efforts made by law enforcement to combat domestic violence.

The President added that the problem is far from resolved as he cited statistics that show that about 20 percent of women could be sexually attacked during their lives. However, the bill has empowered women to speak out against sexually motivated crimes. In addition, it designates nearly $660 million annually for the next five years that will add services like housing, crisis hotlines, legal aid and education for the police. Tribal authorities can now prosecute anyone who commits a domestic violence crime on their land.

The Violence Against Women Act means that victims of domestic violence have stronger rights that they can hold against their abusers. This could affect divorce proceedings if one partner is accused of spousal abuse toward the other. A family lawyer might be able to provide additional information on the new bill and advocate for affected clients.

Source: New Jersey Herald, “Obama signs expanded Violence Against Women Act,” Josh Lederman, March 7, 2013

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