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The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which helps protect women against domestic violence and assists those who are victimized through various programs, came into being in 1994. However, it was a time-limited measure that had to be periodically renewed.

Due to complications from the recent government shutdown, the VAWA lapsed in February because it wasn't included in a larger spending bill. Now, there are some questions about whether it will be renewed -- and in what form.

The House Judiciary Committee has voted to reauthorize the VAWA -- along with changes that have sparked some controversy along political party lines. The current proposal would offer new protections for transgender persons -- such as giving transgender women access to domestic violence shelters they might otherwise be denied -- and rules that would make it more difficult for those convicted of domestic abuse to purchase firearms.

The VAWA has been crucial to giving victims of domestic violence a foothold out of their abusive situations. It helps fund many of the social service organizations and programs that victims rely on to start over.

Many advocates for domestic violence victims say that allowing the law to lapse shows a fundamental indifference by Congress to the plight of victims. As a result, they have been pushing lawmakers to make the VAWA permanent. Others say that the opportunity to review the Act each time it comes up for renewal gives them a chance to add protections that were missed and to respond to changing cultural norms.

Issues like this highlight the complexity of the problem -- and the fact that there are no easy answers for victims. If you're being victimized, there is help available. An attorney can help you obtain immediate legal protection against your abuser.

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