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A Special Thank You for VAWA (Spreading the Love from YouTube to You!)

FINALLY! The Violence Against Women Act has passed!

And we DID get it done!

And we DID get it done!

So, there have been a number of posts here on Prevention, Power & Peace about the importance of the Violence Against Women act and the shenanigans that have endangered it and hung it up in partisan politics for 500 days of bickering and stalling.  I’m glad to report that this morning, it passed through the House and is finally reauthorized with a vote of 286 to 138.  Even better, the alternate Republican version of the act, which struck out protections for LGBT, for immigrant women, and for Native American women, got consigned to the circular file of history.

Just for a bit of perspective, one reason that the Native American women portion is so important is this (taken from a Washington Post article):

Before the end of the last Congress, negotiations stalled over the Native American provision. That is, giving tribal courts limited authority to prosecute non-Native Americans accused of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes against Native American women on Indian reservations. As I wrote last December, under the old VAWA, a non-Native American man who beats up, sexually assaults or even kills a Native American woman on tribal land would basically get away with it because tribal courts do not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian defendants. In addition, federal and state law enforcement have limited resources to pursue cases and might be hours away from a reservation.

The reauthorized and expanded VAWA also extends protections to other groups that are among the most vulnerable such as human trafficking victims.  It will help reduce violence on college campuses, and help rape victims by making sure that their rape kits are processed–there is currently a tremendous backlog on processing, leaving many victims of sexual assault in a limbo where evidence that could be used to bring their attacker to justice languishes without being analyzed.  Every year since VAWA began in 1994, it has passed without fuss and with expanded protections… until this latest time.

In America, we have long stood by the principle that the protections of the law are not meant just for some. The law should be there to keep all people safe. That is why VAWA’s expansions to protect vulnerable populations such as Native American victims, LGBT victims, and immigrant victims are so terribly, integrally important.

Today is a good day–a day of hope for those victimized by sexual assault and domestic violence.  Today is a day that America finally FINALLY said, “We support you.  We hear you.  We believe you.  You have worth in our eyes.  Your pain is real.  You deserve justice.”

FINALLY.

VAWA Vote Delayed – What Can I Do?

On Thursday, February 7th, the reauthorization vote on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) S. 47, a bi-partisan bill, was delayed in the Senate. A vote is expected early next week – probably late Monday, February 11th.

The Violence Against Women Act is vital federal legislation that provides funding and protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence. VAWA was first authorized in 1994, but was not reauthorized in 2012 because some republicans opposed the bill’s protections for LGBTQ and Native American victims and immigrant victims of domestic violence seeking Visas.

Yesterday, the Senate did reject a Republican alternative to S. 47. The alternative bill would have stripped protections for LGBTQ victims of domestic violence, removed a provision for Native American women, and shifted the focus of VAWA way from women and toward men.

What Can I Do?

We urge you to call your Senators on Monday, February 11th, and ask them to vote for S.47, a strong bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and vote NO on any further amendments that weaken VAWA’s protections.

You can call the Capitol switchboard at (202)224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senators.

Please thank the Senators already co-sponsoring S. 47:

Senators Ayotte, Kelly (R-NH), Baldwin, Tammy (D–WI), Baucus, Max (D-MT) , Begich, Mark (D-AK), Bennet, Michael (D-CO), Blumenthal, Richard (D-CT), Boxer, Barbara (D-CA), Brown, Sherrod (D-OH), Cantwell, Maria (D-WA), Cardin, Benjamin (D-MD), Carper, Thomas (D-DE) Casey, Robert (D–PA), Collins, Susan (R-ME), Coons, Chris (D-DE), Cowan, Mo (D- MA), Crapo, Mike (R-ID), Donnelly, Joe (D-IN) Durbin, Richard (D-IL), Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA), Franken, Al (D-MN), Gillibrand, Kirsten (D-NY), Hagan, Kay (D-NC), Harkin, Tom (D-IA), Heinrich, Martin (D-NM), Heitkamp, Heidi (D–ND), Heller, Dean (R-NV), Hirono, Mazie (D-HI), Johnson, Tim (D – SD), Kaine, Tim (D-VA) King, Angus (I-ME), Kirk, Mark (R-IL), Klobuchar, Amy (D-MN), Landrieu, Mary (D-LA), Lautenberg, Frank R. (D-NJ) Leahy, Patrick (D-VT), Levin, Carl (D-MI) McCaskill, Claire (D-MO), Manchin, Joe (D-WV) ,Menendez, Robert (D-NJ), Merkley, Jeff (D-OR), Mikulski, Barbara (D-MD), Moran, Jerry (R-KS), Murkowski, Lisa (R-AK), Murphy, Christopher (D-CT) Murray, Patty (D-WA), Nelson, Bill (D-FL) Pryor, Mark (D-AR), Reed, Jack (D-RI), Reid, Harry (D-NV), Rockefeller, John D (D-WV), Sanders, Bernard (I-VT), Schatz, Brian (D-HI) Schumer, Charles (D-NY), Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH), Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI), Tester, Jon (D-MT), Udall, Mark (D-CO), Udall, Tom (D-NM), Warner, Mark (D-VA), Warren, Elizabeth (D-MA), Whitehouse, Sheldon (D-RI), Wyden, Ron (D-OR).

Can I Help Save VAWA? Why, Yes! Yes, You Can!

See?  I said I’d do more than one blog post on the Violence Against Women Act!  So… here is Post #2!  It’s nice and short.You-Can-Help

The National Task Force to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Against Women is imploring the 113th Congress to restore VAWA immediately. The new Congress is a change of leadership, and so there is of necessity a brief pause in advocacy efforts.  But be ready to jump in and join the call to mobilize!  Check out the the VAWA Tool Kit.

In California, statewide coalitions such as the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault are also helping to mobilize concerned citizens and advocacy groups in the same effort.

For a first-person perspective on the sorts of services that will be put in jeopardy if VAWA is not revived, and the impact on survivors of violence, read this excellent article from Truth Out!

STAY TUNED FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT VAWA AND HOW YOU CAN HELP.

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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