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Act intended to help domestic violence victims renewed

Advocates who support greater protections for women recently scored a big victory when President Obama signed an expanded Violence Against Women Act into law. The previous version of the Act expired a year and a half ago when Congress failed to reach an agreement on extending it. This Act is geared toward protecting victims of both sexual and domestic violence, and Maryland residents who are going through their own domestic violence troubles may wish to research the protections provided to them by this law.

Statistics indicate that the previous version of the Act helped decrease domestic violence incidents by as much as two-thirds since it was passed back in 1994. The Act dictates methods for protecting women--and even men, who are more rarely victims--from domestic violence. It further sets out standards for prosecuting those who have committed domestic abuse.

Under the renewed Act, federal funds in the amount of $659 million annually for five years will go to shore up current programs which provide various services for those who have suffered domestic abuse. Most of these services include things like offering legal assistance, transitional housing and providing hotlines for victims. Others include providing law enforcement training to officials so they can better recognize and respond to incidents of domestic violence.

Maryland residents who have suffered from domestic violence in their own homes may be able to make use of some of these programs. Further, they could benefit from researching their legal options to take steps to get free from abusers. On the flip side, those who have been accused of committing domestic violence may wish to look into their own rights as they seek to defend themselves against such allegations. Not every person who is accused of having abused a spouse has actually done what has been alleged, which is why our justice system provides the presumption of innocence to all accused individuals.

Source:, "Obama signs expanded domestic violence law," March 7, 2013

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