President Barack Obama signed a law Thursday expanding protections for victims of domestic violence.
The President's signing of this law renews a measure credited with curbing violence against women, nearly two decades after its initial passing. Now, it gives a stronger voice to anyone who has been a victim of domestic and sexual violence.
Candy Phillips, Executive Director of the non-profit First Step is happy about the law.
"It's just a great day," said Phillips.
The Violence Against Women Act expands the 1994 law and its protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
"We are also expanding housing assistance so that no woman has to choose between a violent home and no home at all," said President Obama.
It provides support for organizations that serve domestic violence victims, like First Step.
"It helps strenghten some of the funding that we receive," said Phillips.
This new law opens up some $659 million dollars a year for the next five years to the criminal justice system to strengthen its response to crimes against women and some men. It includes law enforcement training, and ways to reduce sexual assault on college campuses.
According to a just released Justice Department survey, the rate of sexual violence against women and girls age 12 or older fell 64 percent in the last decade.
Advocates like Phillips say its proof that this act is working.
"It does give them the ability to say, i've experienced this or i am experiencing this now i have options, now i am able to get services that i need," said Phillips.
Giving them a voice that won't go unheard.
Gays and Native Americans will also see new protections under the law. It also makes sentences for stalking tougher under federal law.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, no matter your gender, call First Step at 540-434-0295. Staff is available 24 hours a day.