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President signs domestic violence bill into law

Many women who live with violence on a day-to-day basis stay with their abusers because they feel they have nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help and support. A new law aimed at stemming the tide of domestic violence in Illinois and the rest of the country, however, may provide new protection to those suffering from abuse.

On March 7, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act into law. The original bill, which was first enacted in 1994, lapsed in 2011 when political parties failed to come to agreement on terms that would expand its scope in regards to homosexuals, immigrants and Native Americans.

The Violence Against Women Act is credited with reducing sexual assault cases in the United States by roughly 50 percent between 1995 and 2010 and the incidence of domestic assault by two-thirds. President Obama believes it has been successful because instead of simply changing the laws, it has changed the culture surrounding domestic abuse issues.

The new law authorizes funds totaling $659 million over a five-year period to be spent on programs that will support those suffering from domestic violence, including funding hotlines, making temporary and emergency housing available and expanding access to legal resources. The money will also be used for training and awareness programs for law enforcement officials.

Anyone who is living with domestic violence and is under extreme emotional distress or fears for the safety of children in the home should know that there are resources that can help. In addition to helping victims get away from the abuse so that they can start a new life, there are legal actions that may also help, including lodging criminal charges or filing for a restraining order.

Source: CBS News, “Obama signs expanded domestic violence law,” March 7, 2013