AUGUSTA, Maine -- Advocates for ending domestic violence are urging Congress to renew the Violence Against Women Act and other federal legislation dedicated to supporting survivors.
It has been two years since the act expired, and the House passed its latest bipartisan reauthorization bill in March; the Senate held a hearing on its version this month.
Regina Rooney, director of education and communications for the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, said the legislation is one of the main policy pillars of response to an epidemic of domestic violence and needs to be renewed as soon as possible.
"The House has already passed, with strong bipartisan support, a piece of legislation that would really expand protections for LGBTQ-plus survivors, for tribal communities, for communities of color," Rooney noted.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Rooney wants Mainers to know help is available 24/7 at a helpline run by local member programs. It can be reached at 1-866-834-HELP or 1-866-834-4357.
Rooney added the pandemic has posed additional challenges for people facing domestic violence, especially for those with ongoing court cases that have been delayed. For instance, she pointed out people who are parenting after a separation may still have ongoing custody cases.
"Now, the courts are trying to figure out how to deal with all that, how to move that along," Rooney observed. "And people have really been in limbo for a long time with these stalled-out court cases. I think that's one of the real challenges that the pandemic has wrought."
Maine has nine local centers across the state where people can go if they need assistance, in addition to calling the helpline. In 2020, they helped more than 12,000 residents, and more than 600 people found safety in one of the state's Domestic Violence Resource Center sheltering programs.
Source: Maine News Service