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If the U.S. House of Representatives does not pass the Violence Against Women Act, services provided by Genesee County’s YWCA will be greatly affected.

The bill which was first passed in 1994 provides funding and support for services such as community violence prevention programs and rape crisis centers and hotlines, for example, as well as provides legal protections to victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

Executive director Jeanne Walton of the YWCA in Batavia says an important client services staff position would have to be eliminated because the position is entirely funded by the Violence Against Women Act. The Coordinated Community Response Coordinator is an outreach position that acts as a liaison between different agencies and promotes domestic violence education. The woman who currently holds the position also takes on cases and works in coordination with law enforcement and the district attorney’s office to represent the YWCA and the victims.

“We wouldn’t want to just drop those services in their entirety because we no longer receive the funding,” Walton said, “so it would be challenging for us because we would have to go to our remaining staff to ensure that things are still occurring within the community. To be honest, the case load that she handles just doing client service work is incredibly intense.”

The Senate passed an extension to reauthorize the bill last week by a vote of 78-22 and has called on the House to do the same. U.S. Senator from New York Kirsten Gillibrand has been particularly outspoken.

“This would provide the life-saving funding that cities and states provide for women who are attacked by their spouses or are subject to domestic violence,” Gillibrand said via WCBS Radio in New York.

The holdup on the bill revolves around handling jurisdiction over Native American women victimized on tribal lands as well as new provisions that expand protections to LGBT individuals and undocumented immigrants.

The YWCA’s main website details why the Violence Against Women Act is so essential to its mission and purpose, and includes this statement:

The YWCA supports anti-violence policies that protect victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and work to eradicate sexual assault and domestic violence, trafficking of women and girls, and dating violence. Specifically, we support the continuance and full funding for the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and legislation that ensures employment stability and economic security for victims of violence against women.

Walton says ensuring the positive well-being of women and families is too important to forget about.

“(Domestic violence) is absolutely a very real issue,” Walton said, “and one that should not be let go. The other thing that’s a part of this is that this is not just the lives of women; this is the lives of women and children and there are men as well.”

“It’s really rampant. It’s one of the biggest challenges we face in the Genesee County community and it would be an absolute tragedy to see something like this disappear.”

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