The 2012 winter may not have been as cold as this past year, but it was surely chilling when the 112th Congress failed to reauthorize an amended version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). These amendments included enhanced protections for immigrant, Native American and tribal, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) survivors of domestic and sexual violence. But with the 113th Congress, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 was passed and signed into law on March 7, 2013. Although not all the provisions were adopted into the new law, considerable steps were taken in protecting a population that is so often overlooked: the transgender and gender non-conforming community.
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.
Aside from presents, way too much food, and time spent with loved ones, your holiday season was undoubtedly filled with debates about Congress and the looming “fiscal cliff”. If your family is anything like mine, I am sure those were very lively dinner table discussions. But with the fiscal cliff dust settling, you may not have heard that Congress failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Since 1994, the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), has been charged with improving our nation’s ability to prevent and respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Nineteen years ago, then-Senator Joe Biden pushed Congress to promote a national strategy that would protect women from violent crimes and hold offenders accountable, in what is now a very historic piece of legislation.
Continue reading VAWA Is Still Alive and Needs Your Voice!
Congress has just a few days to get to work on the Violence Against Women Act before they leave for the entire month of August – and then only a few short days in session before the congressional session ends on October 1. Please take 5 minutes to call or write to your own Representative and both Senators in your state!
Since the April passage of a Senate version and a May House-passed version of VAWA, Congress has still not signed the act into law. Congress will go home the first of October and may not come back until after the elections. We have no time to lose!
Call your legislators and write letters to the editor, especially if you are in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin. Let them hear what you have to say before they go on vacation!
Everyone loses if VAWA isn’t finished— all victims need the many improvements in this version of VAWA. What can you do to help?