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Local Lawmakers Urge Congress To Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Grace Meng joined survivors of domestic violence at a Midtown press conference on Sunday to urge Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Originally passed in 1994, the bill improves law enforcement training, services for women and counseling for domestic violence victims.

However, reauthorizing the bill would cost $2.5 billion, and that move was blocked by Congress last year due to partisan politics.

The U.S. Senate did pass a bipartisan bill reauthorizing the bill last week, and Gillibrand and Meng urged the House of Representatives to do the same.

The New York City Police Department says there were nearly 258,000 reports of domestic violence in the city in 2011.

The domestic violence survivors stressed at Sunday's event that the bill helps combat what they consider to be one of society's greatest ills.

"Back in 1994, I was tied, gagged, and raped at knifepoint in my own home," said one of the survivors. "As horrible as that experience was, I was lucky. I survived."

"I watched my father beat and punch and stomp my mother from one end of our apartment to the other," said another survivor.

"If you don't pass the bill, that you tell me I am not supposed to live today, OK?" said a third survivor. "I live and provide a safe and peaceful environment for all my daughters and I am so proud of them."

A number of House Republicans are opposed to the measure.

The bill offers some controversial measures, such as increasing the number of visas for battered woman who are undocumented immigrants and ensuring that LGBT victims of domestic violence get services without discrimination.

It would also allow non-Native American people who are charged with domestic violence on tribal lands to be tried in tribal courts.

Nevertheless, 17 Republican representatives, including Staten Island-Brooklyn Rep. Michael Grimm, signed a letter last week urging House Speaker John Boehner to make sure the bill is reauthorized.

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