Support A Strong And Comprehensive Reauthorization Of The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
LEGISLATION MAY BE CONSIDERED BY THE U.S. SENATE AS SOON AS THE FIRST WEEK OF FEBRUARY
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was first enacted in 1994 with strong NAACP support, recognizes the insidious and pervasive nature of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking while supporting comprehensive, effective and cost saving responses to these crimes. VAWA programs, administered by the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, give state law enforcement, prosecutors and judges the tools they need to hold offenders accountable and keep communities safe while protecting and supporting victims. Since its enactment, VAWA has dramatically enhanced our nation’s ability to respond to violence against girls and women, boys and men. Since the law was implemented, more victims have reported domestic violence to the police and the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 64%. The sexual assault services program in VAWA helps rape crisis centers keep their doors open to provide the frontline response to victims of rape. VAWA provides for a coordinated community approach, improving collaboration between law enforcement and victim services providers to better meet the needs of victims. These comprehensive and cost-effective programs not only save lives, they also save money. In fact, VAWA saved nearly $12.6 billion in net averted social costs in just its first six years.
VAWA must be swiftly reauthorized to ensure the continuation of these vital, lifesaving programs and laws. Senators Patrick Leahy (VT) and Mike Crapo (ID) have introduced a bipartisan bill, S. 47 to reauthorize and improve VAWA. This important legislation seeks to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.
S. 47 now has 60 co-sponsors and supporters are hoping it will be considered as early as next week. S. 47 is very similar to a bill which passed the U.S. Senate in 2012. The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women has worked closely with the bill’s sponsors to ensure that that the bill will not only continue proven effective programs, but that it will make key changes to streamline VAWA and make sure that even more people have access to safety, stability and justice. Last year, the U.S. House passed a much weaker version of VAWA which does not include Native Americans, homosexuals, undocumented immigrants, and does not offer the same protections to students as the Senate bill. While the NAACP and almost every other civil rights, human rights, and women’s rights advocacy organizations supported the Senate version of the bill, the House and Senate were not able to come up with a final version of the legislation and thus both bills died at the end of the 112th Congress. With the advent of the 113th Congress, on January 3, 2013, we must start the process all over again.
The NAACP has supported the passage of the VAWA in 1994, and its reauthorization in 2000 and 2005, and has seen the VAWA improve the landscape for victims in the United States who once suffered in silence. Victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking have now been able to access services, and a new generation of families and justice system professionals has come to understand that domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking are crimes that our society will no longer tolerate.