A long-time federal funding source for domestic violence prevention programs and victim services is on the ropes, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., was in Bend Friday, gathering support for its continuance.
The Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994 and has provided billions of dollars to fund programs that help women escape domestic violence. If Congress does not act quickly, it could expire.
Wyden was in Bend to meet with community leaders about the need for reauthorization of the bill.
"The fact is, in our state, often the Violence Against Women Act is the last line of defense between the abuser and the abused," the senator said
Saving Grace, a Bend non-profit, provides services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. For many years, Saving Grace has relied on funding from the Violence Against Women Act to fund support services for victims. Without reauthorization, those victims in need may have no where to turn.
"You don't ever want to say no," said Saving Grace Board President Martha Murray. "If someone is fleeing a violent situation, they need help, they deserve help, and we are there to give it to them."
The bill has long maintained bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, but is currently stalled in Congress.
With cases of domestic violence and domestic homicide on the rise, local lawmakers insist this is no time for partisan politics.
"This is too important," Wyden said. "This is not, in my view, a debate about social policy. It's a debate about preventing violence against women."
Gov. John Kitzhaber has taken notice and announced Thursday the creation of a new domestic violence task force. The group will focus on efforts to protect victims and children, making communities safer