Domestic shelters and police agencies stand to get more federal tax dollars in combating violence against women in a Senate-passed bill co-sponsored by West Virginia’s two senators.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a Democrat, called domestic violence “a scourge ... a despicable crime” and said America must face the challenge of ending its vicious cycle.

By reauthorizing the original 1994 Violence Against Women Act, the Senate enabled licensed domestic violence programs, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and community-based efforts to maintain emergency services and develop innovative projects.

“We have a moral obligation to make sure that women suffering from domestic violence are able to live in an environment that is safer and have a future that is brighter,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also D-W.Va.

In 2003, the last year where figures were available, the senators noted, there were 10,400 documented cases of domestic violence in West Virginia, and 25 of them led to the death of the victim.

Byrd said the VAWA led to “a fundamental change in the criminal justice system’s response to violent crimes committed against women.”

“Despite the progress, domestic violence continues to take a terrible toll on families, especially women and children — some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” the senator said.

Despite strides taken in the past decade, Byrd and Rockefeller produced some alarming statistics.

For instance, rape occurs every 5.8 minutes, and one of every dozen women in this country has been stalked. One in three teens knows someone with a history of physical abuse on a date.

Boys witnessing their fathers in acts of violence are 10 times more likely to engage in domestic violence than those never put in such environments.

Intimate partner violence, ranging from stalking to rape, costs the nation some $5.8 billion annually.

That includes $4.1 billion spent on direct medical and mental health care services.

“There is no doubt that we have made progress on the issue of domestic and family violence, but more needs to be done,” Rockefeller said.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com



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