Congress Failed To Pass A Law That Could Have Helped Rape Victims

domestic violence

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As America is rocked by horrifying rape allegations, the 112th Congress failed to reauthorize a bill meant to protect women from violence.The Senate passed a bill last year to extend the Violence Against Women Act, but the House of Representatives failed to do the same and allowed the act to expire, Nonprofit Quarterly reported Friday.

The Violence Against Women Act was initially enacted in 1994 and strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex offenders, mandated that women don’t have to pay for their own rape exams, and helped communities develop law enforcement units dedicated to violence against women.

This is the first time the act has been allowed to expire since it was passed, according to NPR.

In an editorial for CNN, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called the expiration “an inexcusable failure by House Republican leaders.”

Murray went on to attack House leadership for sticking to partisan politics and failing to protect a large chunk of the population.

Carrie Johnson, NPR’s justice correspondent, told the public radio station the House let the act expire because of new protections for Native American women.

Had the act been continued, it would have allowed tribal courts to hear rape cases involving offenders who don’t live on the reservation.

“The central nature of the objection was never fully specified in public,” Johnson said. “But from what I’ve been able to figure out from talking to people on the Hill, people in the Justice Department and people in the victims’ advocacy community, it was this notion that expanding some jurisdiction for the tribal courts raised bigger questions about the authority of the tribal courts.”

News of the act’s expiration comes as two particularly gruesome rape cases rock the country.

The town of Steubenville, Ohio has been deeply divided after an unnamed girl accused members of the football of gang rape.

Hacktivist group KnightSec released a disturbing video of a man identified by various media outlets as former Steubenville High baseball player Michael Nodianos talking about the incident.

California’s Second District Court of Appeals also made headlines last week after it ruled that pretending to be a woman’s boyfriend in order to have sex with her isn’t rape.

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