Local advocates against domestic violence say the nation's leaders could be putting victims’ lives at risk.
The previous Congress let the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) die.
It was created in 1994 to improve resources to protect victims and help law enforcement hold offenders accountable. It provides millions of dollars to agencies that help protect victims and prosecute abusers.
Last April, the Senate passed a version of the act that extended protections to gay and transgendered individuals, undocumented immigrants and Native American women.
“We felt like the changes that were made were going to make more groups of people safer in terms of domestic violence,” said Karen Parker with SAFE Alliance.
That new language sparked big debates, mostly along party lines. In the end, the previous Congress did not reauthorize the act, leaving its future and funding in limbo.
“It was very frustrating because VAWA has never been a partisan issue," Parker said. "In the past, it's always been something that's been passed on both sides. People have agreed on it, and they've really focused on the safety of victims."
Over the past 18 years, VAWA has provided more than $1.6 billion to fund programs and resources nationwide. In the Charlotte area, that money is used to fund legal services for domestic violence victims, sex assault programs, police training and shelters.
"Our country should be protecting people, not excluding people. We should be welcoming them and trying to support people,” said Roberta Dunn, the vice chair for the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte.
VAWA was reauthorized by Congress in 2000 and again in December 2005.