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As a Survivor, Ernst Proposes Comprehensive Measure to Bolster Protections for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

The Iowa Senator, a survivor herself, is putting forward a practical solution to reauthorizing and modernizing VAWA that prioritizes protecting and supporting survivors and punishing abusers

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a survivor and an outspoken leader on the issue of combating domestic violence and sexual assault, today spoke on the floor outlining her comprehensive bill to reauthorize and modernize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Senator Ernst’s proposal, supported by a number of her colleagues, provides a ten percent increase in funding above what the Senate Democrats proposed last week, triples the support for rape prevention and education from current levels, and includes a number of bipartisan measures to address VAWA-related crimes throughout the country, including in rural areas like her home state of Iowa.

“As a survivor and someone who worked at a victim’s shelter during my time in college, I have a clear understanding of how vital it is for survivors to have resources and support in what can be some of the darkest times of their lives,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “Reauthorizing VAWA shouldn’t be a partisan issue—we should be putting the wellbeing of women and children of sexual and domestic violence first. That’s what this bill does; it’s a practical solution that focuses on survivors, not politics. Our bill will dramatically increase resources for survivors, punish abusers, and provide greater support for our rural communities in Iowa and across the country. I’m optimistic that my colleagues—Republican and Democrat—will join me in getting this vitally important bill signed into law.”

Senator Ernst’s measure is supported by a number of her colleagues, including Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), and Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Deb Fischer (R-NE), David Perdue (R-GA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

"In a manner we have all come to respect, Senator Joni Ernst worked tirelessly to draft legislation that continues a valuable program that protects women from domestic violence and other threats. I am proud to cosponsor this important legislation, which should draw bipartisan support,” said Chairman Graham. "Senator Ernst's bill triples funding for sexual assault survivors, enhances abusers’ accountability and reauthorizes important support programs for ten years.  I look forward to working with Senator Ernst to turn this important legislation into law."

“This legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act provides important resources to help address domestic violence and sexual assault, and to support survivors in their recovery,” said Chairman Hoeven. “Additionally, this legislation includes Savanna’s Act and the SURVIVE Act, two bills I’ve supported to better assist tribal communities in preventing and addressing violence against Native American women.”

“The 2019 Violence Against Women Reauthorization funds more shelters for domestic violence victims and includes my legislation to stop the horrendous practice of female genital mutilation. By addressing this problem, we can ensure that perpetrators of such violence against women and young girls are brought to justice. I thank Senator Ernst for her leadership in the fight to protect women who have experienced unthinkable trauma,” said Senator Blackburn.

“I’m grateful to Senator Ernst for her leadership as she’s negotiated in good faith with our Democratic colleagues to extend this critical law,” said Senator Cornyn. “This bill puts more resources towards victims’ rights programs and gives additional certainty to survivors with a ten-year reauthorization. I hope our friends across the aisle will put politics aside and support this legislation, which has done so much good for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence over the last 25 years.”

“This is an important issue to me and my family, and I am dedicated to promoting policies ensuring a safeguard for victims of domestic abuse,” said Senator Cramer. “This version of the Violence Against Women Act provides funding for programs aimed at preventing domestic violence and supporting victims, and it includes important measures to address these issues in rural areas and on tribal lands. I thank Senator Ernst for her leadership, and I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting it.”

“I am proud to help introduce this VAWA reauthorization bill. It provides heightened resources for critical programs so that we can address domestic violence and sexual assault. Importantly, the legislation also triples funding for a VAWA grant program assisting domestic violence survivors in our rural communities,” said Senator Fischer.

“Violence of any kind, especially against women, is reprehensible,” said Senator Perdue. “I am proud to support this effort to combat domestic violence and better support survivors. For more than two decades, this initiative has made an impact in the lives of women who have gone through extreme trauma, and partisan politics should never stand in the way of its continuation. Senator Ernst has been a warrior in this effort, and I’m grateful for her leadership.”

“I am proud to join my colleagues in this important effort to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act,” said Senator Rubio. “This bill would increase funding and provide a 10 year authorization for critical grant programs to prevent and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, as well as support for victims. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reach consensus on a path forward to reauthorize this important legislation to protect and empower women.”

“Our country is unquestionably in the midst of a national crisis. One-in-four women—our fellow Americans—experience severe physical violence in their lifetime,” said Senator Sullivan. “These are our sisters and daughters, mothers and aunts, neighbors, friends and colleagues. Having worked closely with advocates and survivors, including in Alaska, I know how important the reauthorization of VAWA is to their work and to the protection of women. This VAWA reauthorization includes three key provisions from my series of Choose Respect legislation to address specific challenges, including combatting the cultural acceptance of violence, the lack of legal representation afforded to victims, and the ability of perpetrators to evade court orders. I want to commend Senator Ernst for her diligent work gathering input and assembling this package that will authorize vital programs for the foreseeable future and provide more resources and attention to ending the epidemic of abuse. This reauthorization deserves the support of every member of the Senate, and I look forward to its swift passage.”


After months of working closely and in good faith with her Democratic colleagues, Senate Democrats abruptly halted their discussions with Senator Ernst and turned their backs on the progress they had made on a reauthorization bill. Despite that, Senator Ernst remains committed to getting a reauthorization bill signed into law. Senator Ernst’s legislation she is introducing today reflects her commitment to ensuring survivors get the resources and support they need.

Senator Ernst’s Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 goes even further than the Democrats’ proposal in certain areas and tackles issues their bill fails to. The Ernst-led bill:

  • Robustly increases the amount of resources to victims
  • Holistically addresses female genital mutilation
  • Bolsters housing protections available to victims
  • Enhances criminal penalties for child sexual abuse
  • Empowers victims of revenge pornography
  • Closes the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole
  • Recognizes sex trafficking as a form of sexual assault

Included in the legislation is Senator Ernst’s CREEPS Act, which gives federal agencies the authority to remove an employee convicted of sexual assault or found to have committed such an offense by an administrative body while employed by the federal government.

For a one-pager on the bill, click here. For bill text, click here.