The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was originally passed in 1994 in response to the prevalence of domestic violence and the pervasive effects that it has on victims’ and survivors’ lives. The Act is set up to be authorized about every five years and was thus reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S.1925) was introduced in the Senate on November 30, 2011 and appeared before the Committee on the Judiciary on February 7, 2012. VAWA is set to be brought before the Senate in the near future, possibly even this week.
Upon introducing VAWA on the Senate Floor, Senator Leahy, the Sponsor of the Act, made a statement urging all Senators to support VAWA. He stated, “[VAWA] seeks to expand the law’s focus on sexual assault, to ensure access to services for all victims of domestic and sexual violence, and to address the crisis of domestic and sexual violence in tribal communities, among other important steps. It also responds to these difficult economic times by consolidating programs, reducing authorization levels, and adding accountability measures to ensure that Federal funds are used efficiently and effectively.” He notes that for the past eighteen years, the Violence Against Women Act has been “the centerpiece of the Federal Government’s commitment to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”
In 2009 more than two thousand advocates responded to national conference calls and surveys regarding the most pressing issues facing victims and survivors of interpersonal violence and the barriers to full implementation of VAWA. Subsequently, the responses were recorded and three of the top issues recognized were barriers to service for undocumented victims, lack of services to LGBTQ victims, and high levels of violence among Native Alaskan and Native American women.
The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women states, “VAWA programs…give law enforcement, prosecutors and judges the tools they need to hold offenders accountable and keep communities safe while supporting victims.” The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 includes several changes to the Reauthorization Act of 2005, including providing more resources for underserved populations, enhancing law enforcement and judicial tools to combat violence against women, strengthening the healthcare system’s response to interpersonal violence, and providing safe homes, economic security, and legal services to victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Fact sheets detailing the specifics of the many facets of VAWA and examples of what organizations receive funding from VAWA can be found here.
On February 13, 2012 The Diane Rehm Show, aired by NPR and WAMU 88.5, hosted three women to discuss “Objections to Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act”. Listen to the broadcast here. The panel of women included Amy Myers, Professor and Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law, Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women, and Janice Crouse, Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America. Myers and O’Neill voiced their support for VAWA, while Crouse shared her concerns with the Act. Crouse argued that there are no indicators that VAWA has reduced the occurrence of interpersonal violence. However, the U.S. Department of Justice has reported that since VAWA was first enacted, reporting of domestic violence has increased by as much as 51%. Myers and O’Neill rebut Crouse’s claim by stating that the rise in reporting evidences the increased visibility and accessibility of services to victims and survivors. Organizations like legal clinics and shelters are saving lives. Homicides at the hands of intimate partners have decreased by 57% for men and 34% for women, which is reported to have a direct correlation with the increase in legal aid and protection orders due to the Violence Against Women Act.
Amy Myers shared that the Centers for Disease Control reported that for the 1.6 billion that was allocated for VAWA in 1994, the United States saved 12.6 billion dollars, which can be attributed to decreased spending on health care, police forces, and lost wages due to injury. Terry O’Neill believes that the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 needs to be passed and fully funded because “it is a start.” There are many reasons why people from both political parties believe that VAWA does not do enough, but she believes that this should not be a reason to not pass the Act.
There are currently sixty co-sponsors of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, including North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan. However, Senator Richard Burr is not a co-sponsor of VAWA. If you support VAWA, please contact your Senators and share your opinions. The phone number for Senator Burr’s Office is (202)224-3154 and the phone number for Senator Hagan’s Office is (202)224-6342. Consider thanking Senator Kay Hagan for co-sponsoring VAWA and urging her to continue to support all victims and survivors of interpersonal violence. Consider urging Senator Richard Burr to support VAWA and vote yes when the Act reaches the Senate Floor. No matter your opinion regarding the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, please take the time to contact Senators Burr and Hagan to share your opinions on this extremely important matter that affects far too many Americans. Have questions or comments about VAWA? Please share them below!
*Please note that the embedded links that reference Thomas.gov may not link to the page cited because the website deletes searches thirty minutes after creation. To find out more about VAWA, please visit THOMAS (The Library of Congress) at www.thomas.gov, select search by “Bill Number”, and enter S.1925 into the search engine. From there, all of the information regarding the legislation referenced in this post can be accessed. Thank you!