It's just after noon on a weekday and the SafeLink domestic violence hotline has already received 64 calls.
SafeLink is operated by Casa Myrna, a network of three domestic violence shelters for women and children in Boston. Joanne Schindler is a social worker at Casa Myrna who counsels mostly mothers.
"Some of them have left abusive situations, some of them are trying to figure out whether to leave or what to do,” Schindler said. “A lot of them would be affected by VAWA."
VAWA is the Violence Against Women Act, which ensures that women have access to anti-abuse programs. Some of its advocates say it has reduced annual incidence of domestic violence by as much as 50 percent. Now Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is among those who want to add protection for college students, immigrants — legal and otherwise — Native Americans and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
"And I'm in here as a very tangible reminder of the work that is done to help protect people who are in abusive relationships, people who have been sexually abused, and the reminder of why we need the VAWA for more resources into protecting the victims of domestic violence and to make sure we have the right tools to help them build better lives," Warren said during a visit to Casa Myrna.
VAWA provides grants to state and local offices for legal assistance, transitional housing, law enforcement training, stalker databases and domestic violence hotlines. It also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Justice Department. Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley pointed out Congress was not able to reach a deal to extend the legislation when it expired in 2011.
"The senate version of VAWA means so much to us because the House, ok, they only did so much,” Conley said. “But in a city like Boston and a county like Suffolk County, the face of domestic violence looks very different. It looks very different than perhaps in some other parts of the country. And it's so important that it's inclusive. Gay and lesbian, black and white, immigrant and native born people."
In contrast to the House version of the update of the legislation, the senate bill has bipartisan backing and is expected to have little difficulty in attracting the necessary 60 votes to be moved to the floor. A final vote could come by the end of the week.