Domestic violence survivors and advocates in Seattle are celebrating the approval of a updated version of the Violence Against Women Act. President Obama signed the act into law on Thursday.

The act authorizes $659 million a year over five years for programs such as transitional housing, legal assistance, and hotlines.

It is their safety net, like they're able to escape the abuse because of the Violence Against Women Act, said Judith Panlasigui.

She's the executive director of API Chaya, a non-profit group that seeks to end systemic violence in our communities.

The organization holds a vigil at the King County Courthouse each March, to honor the victims of the 1995 courthouse shooting. Susanna Blackwell and two of her friends, Phoebe Dizon and Veronica Laureta, were shot and killed by Blackwell's estranged husband during the couple's divorce proceedings.

And so every year, we hold this vigil at the courthouse just to remember and not forget that violence does exist in our communities, said Panlasigui.

In the crowd, you'll find other domestic violence victims and survivors, like Jenive Brooks. She endured eight years of abuse before she was finally able to escape. Brooks says Thursday's news that President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act into law comes as a huge relief.

It's empowering, she said. It does give me hope, it makes me feel like I'm not alone, the President is by my side, and I can fight, I can fight with the others who are currently going through violence.

Organizers of the vigil said the annual event was not planned to coincide with the signing of the act, but they do feel the timing is fitting.

Washington Senator Patty Murray was one of the original supporters of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.

The revitalized act provides protection to Native Americans, immigrants, and domestic violence victims in the gay and lesbian community.

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