Tell Congress to Finalize the Violence Against Women Act
The Violence Against Women Act, which was passed 11 years ago to prevent, treat and prosecute gender-based violence, expired on September 30.
The House approved reauthorization through 2009 on September 29, with an added amendment by Representative James Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, that limits the VAWA's ability to create programs for women of color and immigrants.
The Senate version, which was reauthorized on October 4, drops a program that would have extended coverage for unemployment insurance to domestic violence survivors who lose their jobs as they hide or flee from violence.
Domestic violence activists are still waiting for politicians to work out the differences in the House and Senate bills and agree on one version they can then pass and send to Bush for his signature.
Senator Biden, a Democrat from Delaware and author the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, called the legislation "critical to ensuring the safety and well being of our nation's women and children."
"We broke tremendous ground in 1994 and 2000. We wrote new domestic violence laws. We outlawed marital rape. We distributed over $3.8 billion dollars to states and towns to train and support police, lawyers, judges, nurses, shelter directors and advocates to end domestic violence and sexual assault. And as a result, we've seen an almost 50% drop in domestic violence. But we must do more."
With so much attention on the Valerie Plame case and the upcoming Supreme Court nomination, the reauthorization of the VAWA isn't getting enough attention. Urge your representatives and Senators to act quickly by signing a petition.
In an October 29 Austin American-Statesman column, Sheryl Cates, executive director of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, writes:
Since 1996, more than 1 million individuals have called the National Domestic Violence Hotline, seeking a way to save their health, sanity, children and their very lives. The trouble is that every year, close to 4 million American women experience a serious assault by a partner. Three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day. It is estimated that millions of children see family violence in their homes annually.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Violence Against Women Act of 2005, increasing funding and directing more help toward underserved women. The legislation would direct $400 million annually to the criminal justice system; help sexual assault crisis centers; provide more resources for children, men and boys; train health care providers; and focus help on victims in rural America, among Native Americans and within our inner cities' housing projects.
Since the passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, more than $3.8 billion has gone to states and localities to train and support those working to end violence against women. Now, the stage is set for Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which will expand this community-based approach to helping victims and holding offenders accountable by providing federal resources to the local governments and non-profit groups that are on the front line."