Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Combating Domestic Violence: A Call to Reauthorize VAWA

Combating Domestic Violence:
A Call to Reauthorize VAWA
Guest Blogger: Mallen Urso, NWPC PPAC Intern

Consider the statistics: 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime; 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

Domestic violence is permeating our lives and the lives of our loved ones. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that anyone reading this knows of someone that has been a victim of domestic violence or has been a victim themselves. From mild instances to those resulting in death, no one deserves to be a victim of this brutality, and no one has to be. This is not an obscure issue that we can sweep under the rug. We have no more time to waste when further addressing domestic violence.

Senate bill S.1925, also known as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, is currently winding its way through Congress. VAWA was reauthorized in 2005 and guaranteed funding for VAWA services and programs through FY2011. S.1925 will guarantee funding for VAWA for another 5 fiscal years.

VAWA 2011 makes great strides to correct any and all issues associated with past versions of VAWA. The bill streamlines and condenses VAWA programs in order to enhance the quality of services and protection for victims. With fewer programs, service providers are held more accountable. Furthermore, costs associated with VAWA will be cut by approximately $160 million dollars per year. VAWA 2011 also makes a greater effort to include marginalized populations like colored women, immigrants, men and the LGBT community. With discrimination already stacked against them, these populations are even less likely to report acts of domestic violence. We must guarantee protection for these populations, and VAWA 2011 can do just that.

VAWA 2011 continues program services for the four core crimes associated with partner violence (sexual assault, dating violence, stalking and domestic violence). It does so by enhancing its primary formula—S.T.O.P. (services, training, officers, prosecutors). This formula is expanded through specific provisions that alter previous VAWA language that failed to fully address males, teens, elders, and those with disabilities.

Just to mention a few provisions, S.1925 targets teens by instituting Rape Prevention Education (RPE), updated programs for cyberstalking, and funding for campus outreach regarding domestic violence education and assistance. Title VIII of the bill provides highly specific language regarding mandatory services for immigrants including the availability of U-Visas and exemption from the public charge inadmissibility ground. Title IX of the bill specifically addresses Indian women by granting more money to tribal programs and services and further including Indian women in mainstream VAWA programs. This version of VAWA contains more inclusive and effective language than previous versions.

Yes, statistics on domestic violence have improved over the years and protections for women are increasing with the help of VAWA; however, protection for domestic violence victims is still under attack. For example, two bills currently in the New Hampshire legislature, HB 1581 and HB 1608, attempt to stop police from making a domestic violence arrest unless the officer witnesses the domestic violence firsthand. How probable is that? Victims of this type of crime rarely speak out, and when they do, it tends to be in secret because they fear for their lives. Laws like these dismiss the horrific nature of domestic violence and leave victims with very little protection. This is precisely why we need a reauthorized federal mandate regarding help and rehabilitation for these victims.

This Thursday, February 2nd, VAWA will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a mark-up. It is important that we recognize that this issue does not just pertain to the victims, the abusers, and women’s rights advocates. This is an issue that is pertinent to everyone across the country. We must offer protection to the people of America—women, men, young and old.

Get to know VAWA. Get to know the issue of domestic violence and how closely it pertains to your life. Take a stand with VAWA to protect the people of this country from lifelong suffering associated with domestic violence.

For a brief summary of VAWA, try this fact sheet: http://www.nnedv.org/docs/Policy/VAWA_Reauthorization_Fact_Sheet.pdf
Check out a section-by-section analysis here: http://www.leahy.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/SectionBySection-ViolenceAgainstWomenReauthorizationAct.pdf
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