By M. DeLois (Dee) Strum, National President, The National Coalition of 100 Black Women
It is ironic that the month of March, established by the U.S. Congress, in 1987, as “Women’s Month of History”, may this year be remembered as the month in which the U.S. House of Representatives failed to reauthorizeone of the most powerful legal tools for the protection of ALL women against violence: the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA.
On February 12, 2013, the U.S. Senate took up its version of VAWA as Senate Bill 47.
S. 47 did pass with strong bipartisan support, but unfortunately 22 male senators, (with all 22 members belonging to the same political party), voted against the reauthorization. Now we must look to the U.S. House of Representative to take up its version. Even more members of the House object to very important parts of the Senate’s bill that will protect ALL women, not just some.
With data collected by the Department of Justice our members of congress should understand the necessity to strengthen laws against sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking:
- One in every four women and one in every seven men have experienced severe physical violence by a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend.
- Each year in the U.S. , approximately 5.2 million women and 1.4 million men, experience domestic violence-related stalking; the most common type of stalking and often the most dangerous.
- One in ten high school students were physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend in 2009 alone.
- One in five women and one in 71 men have been raped in their lifetimes, and nearly 1.3 million women in the U.S. are raped every year with these types of crimes often being under-reported.
Many of these women are our mothers, sisters, nieces, aunts, friends and co-workers.
S. 47 includes the much needed funding for the prevention, prosecution, and victim services, with additional legislative supports for law enforcement, prosecutors offices and non-profits providing emergency shelters for women, and their families, as well as implementing educational campaigns to end domestic violence.
When the House returns to its legislative agenda, women everywhere must fight for VAWA’s legislative life. This is especially true for African American women and organizations as violence against women in our community occurs far too often.
Our voices and actions must ensure that VAWA is reauthorized to the benefit of all women. Some House members object to sections of VAWA because it would equally apply to:
- A woman who may be a member of the LGBTQ community;
- Native American women living on a reservation, who suffer rape and or physical violence on the reservation;
- “Un-documented”, or newly immigrated women, (who as a victim of domestic violence are fearful to seek law enforcement assistance because of the fear of deportation and prosecution).
The National Coalition of 100 Black Women (NCBW ) believes violence is violence, and “the law” should ensure that ALL are protected. NO perpetrator or entity should be able to interpret these potential exclusions as “permission” to abuse anyone.
As we approach Women’s History Month let’s make history once again! Please join NCBW and our allies in advocating for the 2013 Reauthorization of VAWA, fully enacted, and fully funded. Please share the facts about violence against women with your family and church members, friends and colleagues. Visit the offices of your members of congress, write, email, and ask that they cast their vote in support of the Senate’s complete version of VAWA.
It is often said that “March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb”. Women cannot be “meek as a lamb” on this issue; let’s Roar with one voice. Congress must pass an inclusive VAWA for all women. It is the only acceptable option.
Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.
The National Coalition of 100 Black Women is an advocacy group for African American women.With sixty three member chapters across this country and a core mission focus in the areas of Health, Education, and Economic Empowerment through our strategic alliances and partnerships we are intentional about positively impacting the lives of our constituents; African American women and girls.