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Hudson Valley victims, Gillibrand urge renewal of Violence Against Women Act

NEWS12 WESTCHESTER: The Violence Against Women Act, which expired last fall, was passed by the U.S. Senate last week. (Feb. 17, 2013)

Hudson Valley women stood alongside U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Sunday to call on House Republicans to pass the stalled Violence Against Women Act.

Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) pushed for the reauthorization of the act at a news conference in New York City. The bill would provide funding and grants for law enforcement to prosecute perpetrators and assist victims of domestic violence.

"Since 1994, it has helped millions of women escape their attackers and seek justice," Gillibrand said of the act.

The Senate passed a bill renewing the act Tuesday with a 78-22 vote. Gillibrand said that reauthorization has historically been a bipartisan affair, noting that in 2005 the House voted 415-4 in favor.

"I can't imagine any issue less partisan than protecting women -- our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our neighbors -- from violence," Gillibrand said, calling for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to allow a vote on the bill.

The 2013 Senate version, however, adds protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of abuse and expands protections for Native American communities. House Republican leaders, who blocked the renewal of the act in 2012 over objections to such provisions, said last week that they would enact their own version of the bill.

The conservative Christian Family Research Council criticized the changes to the bill, saying on its website that the additions make the legislation objectionable to Republicans.

On Thursday, Hudson Valley groups organized events in support of ending violence against women. The One Billion Rising global day of action included events in Poughkeepsie, Tarrytown and Peekskill, where dozens of woman danced in front of the library on a chilly day to the song "Break the Chain."

Standing beside Gillibrand on Sunday, CarlLa Horton, director of the Pleasantville-based women's shelter Hope's Door, said she is "absolutely enraged."

Horton said she is a survivor of domestic violence, having watched her mother suffer abuse. But she said the violence must be stopped for the sake of the 944 children in the families that Hope's Door served in 2012.

"It is heartbreaking to think that they are seeing and living ... the brutality that I saw," Horton said.

Sheilah Olang, a student at Dutchess County's Vassar College, said she's proof that the Violence Against Women Act can help women escape an abusive relationship.

"I suffered for so many years silently, not knowing where or how to seek help when I was in an abusive relationship," Olang said.

"I am a testament that women across the country are able to live a violence-free and safe life."

Boehner's office could not be reached for comment Sunday.

With The Associated Press

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