VAWA is Only the First Step

Emily Charlap, Public Policy Associate for Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)

One of the things that makes our nation great is the notion of “liberty and justice for all.” Yet we haven’t quite achieved that goal. Women are disproportionately victimized in our own backyards, and measures must be put in place to ensure their liberties while seeking justice to hold perpetrators responsible for their actions.

Today, we hope that the House of Representatives will pass the bi-partisan Senate version reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) legislation which puts forth means toward the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted. This marks a change of heart by House Republican Leadership who held up the reauthorization last year by refusing to bring the Senate’s version to the floor, passing its own version which left out important provisions, which stalled in bi-cameral reconciliations negotiations.

If ultimately successful, this year’s newly reauthorized VAWA contains clauses not included in the original legislation from 1994 or subsequent reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005, extending protections to LGBT and Native American victims of domestic violence, and shining more light on the prevention of sexual assault.

And just to complicate things, this is all taking place during the impending threat of sequestration – across-the-board indiscriminate federal budget cuts slated to take effect March 1 if Congress does not take action to stop it. Funding for programs that directly address violence against women, like domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, children’s services, prevention, community outreach, and other state and local programs that provide services for victims and families, are all on the chopping block. We need Congress to get its act together and figure out a balanced way to cut our deficit that will not sacrifice the well-being of American women. Maybe they should look at the Pentagon budget, where outdated programs that military leaders have said they no longer want or need somehow continue to receive funding. We need Congress to reshape federal budget priorities and AND the way we care for our female citizens.

This is a case where “almost” just isn’t good enough. We must do our part to make sure ALL American women are safe and secure, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act is just the first step.

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