Headlines like "Stabbing victim feared estranged husband would kill her" and "Two plead guilty to raping 12-year-old girl" are haunting reminders of the violence and sexual abuse that occur far too often. According to a 2010 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, more than 1.9 million women in Pennsylvania have been victims of sexual assault, physical violence, or stalking.

Domestic violence and sexual assault leave scars beyond the physical damage. The emotional wounds cut far deeper than the injuries we can see. Victims are often left to heal, physically and emotionally, on their own. As current and former prosecutors, we know from firsthand experience that Southeastern Pennsylvania has some of the best victim services organizations and advocates to help women and children through the healing process. They provide a refuge, a place for women to start healing and rebuilding their lives.

Many of these organizations are funded by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This law, first approved by Congress in 1994, helps communities establish rape crisis centers, victims' assistance and child advocacy programs, domestic violence shelters, and many other critical organizations that both support victims and work to prevent abuse. This important law will expire this year if it not reauthorized. We cannot let this happen.

At a recent roundtable discussion at the Victims' Services Center in Norristown, we brought together a group of organizations, including the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Security on Campus, the Women's Center of Montgomery County, Laurel House, and the Crime Victims Center of Chester County. We discussed the ways VAWA helps them serve our communities. We heard firsthand how this law continues to protect women and children.

Their message to Washington was clear: Domestic and sexual violence against anyone is unacceptable. Extend the Violence Against Women Act without delay.

Congress should embrace this important message.

In this time of fiscal constraint, we are mindful that all government-funded programs have the obligation to meet their missions and to use resources wisely. Funding for VAWA programs can be modified to ensure the most efficient use of tax dollars. But we must not fail the women in our lives — our wives, our mothers, our sisters, and our daughters — by letting this law lapse.

E-mail the writers at repmeehan@mail.house.gov and MontcoDA@montcopa.org.