Rep. Carolyn Maloney Votes to Renew the Violence Against Women Act

Apr 4, 2019
Press Release
Bill Includes Maloney Provision to Extend Debbie Smith Act through 2024

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), author of the Debbie Smith Act, voted to pass H.R. 1585 - the Violence Against Woman Reauthorization Act of 2019, a bipartisan, robust, long-term Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. The landmark legislation, first enacted in 1994, saves lives through critical initiatives designed to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The 2019 reauthorization bill also includes a provision authored by Rep. Maloney that extends the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, which has been called “the most important anti-rape legislation ever passed” and provides funding for local communities to process DNA evidence, including untested rape kits.

“The Violence Against Women Act is a law that literally saves lives and this bill to strengthen and renew VAWA for five years is one of the most important pieces of legislation this Congress will pass,” said Rep. Maloney. “I’m proud this legislation also includes my bill to reauthorize the Debbie Smith grant program, which provides funding for law enforcement to process DNA evidence and reduce the backlog of untested rape kits. With one in three women experiencing domestic violence today, this legislation is urgently needed. It is now incumbent on the Senate to quickly pass it so that it can be signed into law by the President.”

Background on VAWA

This reauthorization fulfills Congress’s responsibility to protect all Americans by reaffirming protections for every woman, as well as including vital improvements to address gaps in current law that have been identified by victims, survivors and advocates.  This bipartisan bill:

  • Improves the services available for victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking;
  • Expands the housing protections and financial assistance available for victims and survivors;
  • Improves protections for Native women, including by reaffirming tribal criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking;
  • Closes loopholes in current firearm laws in order to help prevent “intimate partner” homicides, by prohibiting persons convicted of misdemeanor stalking or dating violence from possessing firearms; and
  • Invests in tools and resources for law enforcement and evidence-based prevention programs that make our communities safer.


Background on the Debbie Smith Act

Rep. Maloney authored the original the Debbie Smith Act after rape survivor Debbie Smith testified before the House Government Reform Committee in June 2001 about using DNA evidence to solve rape cases. Debbie was raped near her home in 1989, and for six and a half years she lived in fear that her attacker would return to kill her. Debbie was finally able to live without fear when she learned that her rapist had been identified because of DNA evidence and was already in prison.

The Debbie Smith Act was signed into law in 2004 as part of the Justice for All Act, comprehensive legislation that ensured that DNA evidence could be used to convict the guilty and free the innocent. Since then, millions of dollars of federal funding have been appropriated under the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program to process the thousands of unprocessed DNA evidence kits - including rape kits - across the country.