What’s making me want to holler this week is the partisan battle over the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This isn’t actually “new” news. The VAWA reauthorization has been in the news since February, when all of the eight republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to vote in favor of reauthorizing the bill.
The Violence Against Women Act, first voted into law in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and again in 2005 provides federal funding to state and local authorities for investigation and prosecution of crimes against women, including domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
To be clear: Republican objectors claim they are not “anti-women”. They just object to some of the ways this latest reauthorization expands the bill. While the original bill works to provide funding for women’s shelters, counseling, rape crisis centers, legal services, and training for law enforcement, the current reauthorization bill expands the scope of who is protected by the VAWA to include undocumented immigrants, LGBTQ victims, and Native American women on reservations. Soooo, they’re not anti-all women – just anti-some women. Right.
Republican senators argue that this latest reauthorization is just an attempt by Democrats to play politics — ginning up more fervor over an “imagined Republican war against women” — by adding controversial expansions. And GOP senators are working on their own version of the bill, which removes the proposed expansions.
Yet, expansions to the VAWA are not radical. Each reauthorization has worked to extend the protections of the act. The first reauthorization, in 2000, expanded the law to better serve older and disabled victims. The 2005 reauthorization provided for programs for teen victims of domestic and intimate abuse. Both passed unanimously.
According to the Department of Justice, since the passage of VAWA IN 1994, number of women killed by intimate partners has decreased by 35 percent, and nonfatal violent acts against women and men by intimate partners decreased by more than 50 percent. Still, across the country, women and men continue to live with the daily threat of domestic and intimate violence. One regional survey conducted by University of Oklahoma researchers showed that nearly three out of five Native American women had been assaulted by their spouses or intimate partners. According to a nationwide survey funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), one third of all American Indian women will be raped during their lifetimes. And an NIJ-funded analysis of death certificates found that, on some reservations, Native women are murdered at a rate more than ten times the national average.
On the ground, this reauthorization would allow for a more effective and coordinated response to domestic abuse on reservations. It would prohibit shelters from turning away women who have been beaten by female partners and better address the needs of male victims of domestic and sexual violence. The reauthorization would moderately increase the number of temporary visas for immigrant women who are victims of domestic abuse.
This should not be about partisan politics, and it’s a shame that Republican senators are not willing to stand up for women of color and lgbtq women.