The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), first authorized in 1994, creates and supports comprehensive, effective and cost saving responses to the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. VAWA programs, administered by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, have dramatically changed federal, tribal, state, territorial and local responses to these crimes.
VAWA expires in 2011 and should be swiftly reauthorized to ensure the continuation of these vital, lifesaving programs and laws.
VAWA-funded programs have unquestionably improved the national response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. More victims are coming forward and receiving lifesaving services to help them move from crisis to stability, and the criminal justice system has improved its ability to keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable.
According to the Re-authorization of VAWA Fact Sheet, since VAWA was first passed in 1994:
* There has been as much as a 51% increase in reporting by women and a 37% increase in reporting by men.
* The number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34% for women and 57% for men and the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased 53%.
* VAWA not only saves lives, it also saves money. In its first six years alone, VAWA saved taxpayers at least $14.8 billion in net averted social costs. A recent study found that civil protection orders saved one state (Kentucky) on average $85 million in a single year.
* States have passed more than 660 laws to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
* All states have passed laws making stalking a crime and strengthened laws addressing date rape and spousal rape.
Further, the reauthorization measure addresses domestic violence in tribal communities, strengthening concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction to give Indian tribes the authority to exercise special domestic violence criminal jurisdiction over a defendant who commits domestic or dating violence or who violates protection orders in Indian country.
Native American women are 2.5 times more likely than other U.S. women to be battered or raped. One-third of native women will be raped in their lifetimes. Two-fifths will experience the tragedy of domestic violence.
Currently, criminal authority on reservations is limited to federal law enforcement agencies that can only prosecute misdemeanor crimes by non-Indians against American Indians/Alaska Natives on tribal land. Sadly, U.S. attorneys declined to prosecute 67 % of sexual abuse and related matters that occurred in Indian country from 2005-2009
S.1925 (VAWA) also increases access to services for immigrant victims of violence and secures greater workplace protections for survivors of violence.
So, what's the problem? I mean, especially since we've all been told that the War Against Women is just a political myth promulgated by the Democratic Party and "Feminazis". Everyone should get behind this bill, right?
Well, not exactly.
Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Kay Bailey Hutchison are working on another version of the bill that they say would reform some of what they feel are the bill’s flaws.
True Republicans, their main concern seems to be that "using federal agencies to fund the routine operations of domestic violence programs that state and local governments could provide is a misuse of federal resources and a distraction from concerns that truly are the province of the federal government".
You know. It's the old "No Big Government" argument. Unless, of course, we're talking about issues concerning a woman's body and the right a woman has to make her own decisions. That, apparently, is not a "distraction from concerns that truly are the province of federal government".
They also note that simply expanding the Violence Against Women Act framework with extensive new provisions and programs that have been inadequately assessed is sure to facilitate waste, fraud, and abuse and will not better protect women or victims of violence generally.
You know. It's the old, 'we need more time to study this problem' argument because we certainly don't want "waste, fraud and abuse" of federal money. Never mind that VAWA has demonstrated, over the years, that it has actually saved money.
We've been at this since 1994, folks. We've learned a few things. We know stuff, now. It's called "social science". Oops. Wait. I just said 'science' didn't I? How elitist of me!
Oh, and there are some concerns that under current law, people — who are mostly men — who are accused of domestic violence have few legal safeguards or rights, even when they face imprisonment, fines, loss of property and loss of access to their children. For example, accusers can get federally-funded lawyers, but defendants don’t get federal aid.
Defendants also lack many standard legal rights available to criminals and defendants in civil suits. For example, immigrants spouses who accuse their spouses of domestic violence can get permanent visas, while their spouses can’t confront them in court.
So, because the general legal framework for defendants and immigration needs some work - to understate the problem just a tad - we just keep allowing violence against women go unabated, right? I mean, what a distraction from "concerns that truly are the province of the federal government"!
Furthermore, there's a little thing called "evidence". You can't just bring a charge of violence without some proof, and all cases in court have to have some evidence - even for things you can't see with the naked eye, like broken ribs and loose teeth or psychological trauma. However, X-rays and dental exams and psychological reports do count as evidence - thanks to the 1994 VAWA.
Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies for The Episcopal Church, who is a strong supporter of S.1925, wrote, in part (and, I encourage you to read her entire statement):
Today we have an opportunity through new provisions in the Violence Against Women Act to provide a path for justice. I encourage you to take action through the Episcopal Public Policy Network to urge the Senate to pass the Violence Against Women Act with the tribal protection provisions intact.
In our baptismal covenant we promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” The safety and protection of all women from violence and abuse is not a political issue. It is a moral issue for all Americans, and for all the baptized, it is a Christian issue.
Don't know who they are? You can find out by clicking here and you will not only find their names but all of their contact information, including email and phone number.
And, work through your own judicatory networks to spread the word and let your judicatory leaders know that our legislators are influenced by their religious voices.
Episcopalians can depend on the Episcopal Public Policy Network to be on the case.
Click on the link and EPPN, plug in your zip code, and they will help you locate your Senators and send a message to them.
It will take less than a minute to have an impact.
And, it could save a life. And, a family.
It's not just about "family values". It's about valuing all families - enough to protect them against violence in any form.
That's something that is a concern that "truly is the province of the federal government".
If not, it ought to be.