Obama Signs Expanded Violence Against Women Act

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama says an expanded anti-violence bill is a "victory" for advocates and survivors of domestic violence.Obama is speaking at a signing ceremony for the bill, which extends domestic violence protections.

The law strengthens those protections for victims who are attacked on tribal land. It also makes clear that lesbians, gays and immigrants should have equal access to the law's programs.

The president says the original law "changed our culture." Obama praised Vice President Joe Biden, who wrote the bill in 1994, for making violence prevention one of his top priorities.

The Justice Department says the rate of sexual violence against women and girls age 12 or older fell 64 percent in a decade and has remained stable for five years.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics survey concludes that in 2010, women and girls nationwide experienced about 270,000 rapes or sexual assaults, compared with 556,000 in 1995.

Rates declined from a peak of 5 per 1,000 females in 1995 to 1.8 per 1,000 females in 2005. The figure remained unchanged from 2005 to 2010.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, has been working for decades to curb violence against women. She says the new study is proof that the newly reauthorized Violence Against Act and awareness of the problem by police is having a positive impact.