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Friday, January 25, 2013

Violence Against Women Act in Congress

Well, finally. You probably heard that the last Congress was one of the least productive in history. Even worse than that, they're the first Congress to fail to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
So it's good news that leaders in the new Congress, in both the House and Senate, just introduced VAWA again. Even better, the versions that have been introduced expand protections to communities who are especially vulnerable to sexual and domestic violence--Native American women, immigrant women, and members of the LGBT community.1
But those expanded protections are the very reason House conservatives shamefully refused to act on VAWA last year--leaving millions of women without crucial protections.2 So if we don't push Congress, hard, it might not even come up for a vote this year.
Reporters are already covering the new VAWA bills, and conservatives didn't face nearly enough pressure when they failed to act last year, so now is the time to speak up. New members of Congress are particularly sensitive to news coverage early in their terms, and want to avoid bad press at all costs. So we need to put pressure on them right away. Can you sign this petition telling Congress to expand and reauthorize VAWA? We’ll deliver your signature directly to your member of Congress.
Every nine seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten.3 Far too many of those incidents are the result of domestic or partner violence.
But thanks to VAWA, we've seen progress. Among many other things, the Violence Against Women Act has:4
  • Strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and created a federal “rape shield law,” which prevents offenders from using survivors' past sexual conduct against them at trial.
  • Trained over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges every year to ensure they understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence.
  • Established the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which has answered over 3 million calls and receives over 22,000 calls every month; 92% of callers report that it’s their first call for help.
The results have been clear:5
  • Between 1993 to 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67%.
  • Between 1993 to 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35% and the rate of intimate partner homicides of males decreased 46%.
  • More victims are reporting domestic and sexual violence to police, and reports to police are resulting in more arrests.
The legislation introduced this year would expand protections to the very communities most vulnerable to violence: Native American women, immigrant women, and members of the LGBT community. Shamefully, this expansion is what House conservatives are up in arms about, and what prevented reauthorization of VAWA before it expired in 2012.
Women’s lives are at stake. Don’t let House conservatives get away with turning women’s health and safety into a political football. Sign the petition today, and make sure Congress knows that Americans want the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized and expanded immediately.
Thanks for speaking out,
Nita, Shaunna, Kat, and Karin, the UltraViolet team
Sources:
2. Ibid.
3. "Every 9 Seconds in the US a Woman Is Assaulted or Beaten - Help End Domestic Violence," National Coalition Against Domestic Violence press release, October 8, 2012
4. "Factsheet: The Violence Against Women Act," The White House, accessed January 24, 2013
5. Ibid.

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