WASHINGTON — It's a sign of how times have changed.
Sixteen years ago, Sens. Orrin Hatch and Joe Biden (now vice president) pushed through Congress the Violence Against Women Act to fight such things as spouse abuse, stalking and sexual harassment. Now as the law is up for reauthorization, Hatch also wants another entirely different possible source of violence explored: the recession.
"I have concerns that the current economic crisis and its effect on domestic violence not only impacts every one of my fellow Utahns, but also victims of domestic violence across this nation," Hatch on Wednesday told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorizing the act.
"Although economic crisis does not cause domestic violence, it may increase existing violence in the home," he said. "Studies have shown that natural strain and unemployment are correlated to an increase in continuing domestic violence."
So because he worries "the current economic downturn directly impacts victims of domestic violence who are seeking help to rebuild their lives," Hatch asked the Justice Department if it has been studying violent impacts of the recession and how to lessen its effects.
Susan B. Carbon, director of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women, said, "We're looking at all of the elements that we can through research and hearing from our grantees … about the extent to which the unmet needs exist and how we can better frame and provide services to track any trends."
She said her office will also seek to "see what we can do about it to provide better services."
This story was reported from Salt Lake City.