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What the Heck is a “VAWA” and Why Do We Care That it Was Allowed to Die?

While most of the United States was worried about the Fiscal Cliff and whether we were going off it or not, another piece of legislation went by the wayside and died before the 12th Congress adjourned for good. That piece of legislation is VAWA – The Violence Against Women Act.

I’ll be putting out more than one blog 735075_451227128272165_1180963144_npost about VAWA and why it’s being allowed to die is a Big Hairy Deal.  So, I figured the best way to approach this is to first put out a VAWA 101 post since you may not know what the heck it is or why it is important. So… strap in, here it comes!

WHAT IS THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT?

The Violence Against Women laws provide programs and services, including:

  • Establishing the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice;
  • Community violence prevention programs;
  • Protections for female victims who are evicted from their homes because of events related to domestic violence or stalking;
  • Funding for female victim assistance services, like rape crisis centers and hotlines;
  • Programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races or ethnicities;
  • Programs and services for female victims with disabilities;
  • Legal aid for female survivors of violence;
  • Funding toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.

WHO SUPPORTED THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT? (At least until recently.)

Everybody!  Well, okay, not EVERYBODY.  However, it was drafted with support from a broad coalition of groups, including:

  • The battered women’s movement;
  • Sexual assault victim advocates;
  • The victim services field;
  • Law enforcement agencies;
  • Prosecutors’ offices;
  • The courts, and the private bar.

It passed through Congress with bipartisan support in 1994 and was reauthorized in similar manner in 2000 and 2005.

SO WHAT RESULT HAS VAWA HAD?  HAS IT DONE ANY GOOD? 

SINCE VAWA WAS ENACTED…

  • Reporting of domestic violence has increased as much as 51%.
  • All states have passed laws making stalking a crime and have strengthened rape laws.
  • The number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34% for women and 57% for men.
  • After using VAWA funding to institute a Lethality Assessment Program, Maryland’s intimate partner homicides have been reduced by a remarkable 41% over four years (July 2007-July 2010).
  • A 2010 study demonstrated that an increase in the number of legal services available is associated with a decrease in intimate partner homicide.
  • A 2009 Department of Justice Study found Kentucky saved $85 million in one alone year through the issuance of protection orders and the reduction in violence

WOW!  SO THAT MEANS THAT SOCIETY NO LONGER HAS TO WORRY ABOUT RAPE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, RIGHT?  VAWA’S WORK IS DONE?

Sadly, no!  We still need VAWA desperately!

  • Three women are still killed every day as a result of domestic violence;
  • Nearly 1 in 4 women are beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood and each year approximately 2.3 million people are raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner;
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape;
  • Teens and young adults suffer the highest rates of dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking;
  • Domestic violence takes its toll on our economy. Even by conservative estimates, domestic violence costs our economy more than 8 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and health care costs alone.

SO WHAT HAPPENED TO VAWA IF IT WAS SO USEFUL?

The Act’s 2012 renewal was fiercely opposed by conservative Republicans, who objected to extending the Act’s protections to same-sex couples and to provisions allowing battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas. In April 2012, the Senate voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and the House subsequently passed its own measure (omitting provisions of the Senate bill that would protect gay men, lesbians, American Indians living in reservations, and illegal immigrants who were victims of domestic violence). Reconciliation of the two bills was stymied by procedural measures.

In the most recent news… on January 2, 2013, The Senate’s 2012 reauthorization of VAWA was NOT brought up for a vote in the House; effectively ending the Bill after 18 years in effect.

SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT THIS LAW HAS BEEN AROUND NEARLY 20 YEARS WITHOUT MUCH FUSS AND NOW IT’S JUST BEEN ALLOWED TO KEEL OVER?

Why yes, that is what I am saying.

In other words, THIS IS NOT GOOD for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking!  On a societal level, we are going from being active bystanders, to people who just walk on by and ignore the problem.

More blog posts to come…

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