At the start of 2013, staff at the Center fielded many questions about potential repercussions when the 112th Congress did not reauthorize VAWA. Just one month later, we find the 113th Congress committed to action. Last week, Senate Bill 47 passed to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID). And now, this bill is once again in the hands of the House of Representatives.
The Senate-approved bill is very similar to the bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Leahy and Crapo last Congress and would improve VAWA programs and strengthen protections for all victims of violence. It includes many important improvements, such as addressing the criminal justice response to sexual assault, domestic violence homicides, housing needs, and campus victimization, all of which were included in legislation last year.
The current Senate bill also includes enhanced protections for tribal, LGBT, and immigrant victims. These extra provisions were identified as critical priorities by advocates across the country and received bipartisan support both last year and this year in the Senate.
Additionally, the SAFER Act, another provision to help improve VAWA, was added and passed unanimously in the Senate late last year. The SAFER Act promotes the elimination of rape kit backlogs which would then be used to help prosecute offenders and solve cold cases.
Although many provisions were included in this year’s bill, one provision from last year was removed. This provision would have increased the number of U-Visas available to immigrant victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and certain other violent crimes. In the 2012 version of VAWA, this provision led to an objection from House leaders. In the interest of obtaining reauthorization and avoiding technical obstacles, the Senate excluded this provision in the new VAWA bill.
As House leaders decide whether they will create their own bill, all of us can make sure the conversation continues. Make sure the House hears your voice and that VAWA is passed. Visit www.4vawa.org for fact sheets, press coverage, support letters, and updates.
VAWA Action Items
ACTION ITEM #1: THANK YOUR SENATORS WHO VOTED FOR S.47
Please thank your Senator(s) who voted for the final VAWA. Both Senator Burr and Senator Hagan voted in favor of S.47.
ACTION ITEM #2: CALL OR VISIT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES TODAY!!!
Find your representative, and click on their webpage to get their district office number. Call them at their district office BEFORE February 22. When you’re connected to their offices, ask to speak to the staff person who handles VAWA. If your Representative is one of the 201 Democratic sponsors of the House version of the Senate VAWA (H.R. 11), thank them profusely and encourage them to talk to and work with their Republican colleagues to get a bipartisan VAWA passed. (For further updates on sponsors, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php, choose Bill number, type in H.R. 11, and search.)
If your Representative is one of the 17 Republicans who signed onto a letter to Republican House leadership urging a bipartisan VAWA that reaches all victims, thank them and urge them to talk to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor and suggest to them that the Senate bill should be considered on the House floor. See letter and signatories here. Twitter handles for these members are at http://www.tweetcongress.org.
If your Representative is NOT on the sponsor list or the Republican letter, call them and tell (or leave a message for) the staff person:
I am a constituent from (city and state) and my name is _________. I want to urge Representative _________ to support a strong, bipartisan, inclusive Violence Against Women Act and hope that they will urge Speaker Boehner to bring the recently-passed bipartisan Senate VAWA (S.47) to the House floor immediately. As you know, VAWA passed the Senate on Tuesday with a resounding bipartisan vote of 78-22 in favor of an all-embracing bill that strives to serve all victims of violence in our communities, homes, campuses and workplaces all around the country.
ACTION ITEM #3: PARTICIPATE IN THE VAWA PHOTO CAMPAIGN!
Join the “We need VAWA because…” campaign on Facebook and Instagram! Tag your photos on Instragram with #VAWA or submit your photos via email to email@example.com. Include your city and state in your statement.