VAWA: It’s Time to Support Victims and Protect Our Communities
Rape and sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking are pervasive problems in our society. No community is unaffected. Recognizing this, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 to improve the nation’s response to gender-based violence. It has been reauthorized three times since then, in 2000, 2005, and 2013; each reauthorization made vital improvements to previous law. VAWA is up for reauthorization again, providing us with the opportunity to make modest but meaningful improvements to strengthen protections for victims, especially those who are most vulnerable.
It’s time – way past time – to do much more to stop this violence, and to protect our communities. That means moving forward – never backwards and never remaining static. This has been the trajectory of VAWA over the past twenty-four years: each time it has been reauthorized in a bipartisan manner with improvements to continue to enhance our nation’s response and prevention efforts.
Unfortunately, we will not see VAWA reauthorized before it is set to expire on September 30th, 2018. Instead, Senate and House leadership are including a 3-month extension to VAWA in the upcoming Continuing Resolution (CR), short term funding legislation to keep the government open until December 7. The VAWA extension reauthorizes grant programs for 3 months without making any changes or enhancements. The CR is a must-pass bill that includes funding for the key programs that survivors count on so we cannot in good conscience ask Senators or Representatives to vote against it, even though we oppose this approach to VAWA. This extension takes pressure off Congress to pass meaningful VAWA reauthorization and allows Members to go into midterm elections saying they’ve acted. However, this approach is not meaningful action.
The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF) has been negotiating in good faith with Congress for over a year, and there has been tangible progress. As a result of this work, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas-18) introduced H.R.6545, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018. This bill, based on extensive consultation with victim service providers, law enforcement, and other experts, preserves previous gains and improves current law to better meet the needs of victims and survivors. It invests in prevention, increases access to justice and safety for Native women, addresses sexual harassment and workplace discrimination, and strengthens housing protections for survivors.
With the decision to enact a short-term extension, however, House and Senate leadership have taken a step backward in bipartisan negotiations on VAWA. This is a very disappointing development, particularly given the national spotlight sexual violence has received in the last year. It is for this reason that the NTF has decided not to oppose the CR but instead has chosen to disengage from negotiations over VAWA reauthorization until Congress demonstrates its commitment to taking meaningful action on these issues.
Now more than ever, Congress should prioritize funds for victim services, prevention programs, and other critically needed community services. Stopping sexual and domestic violence and protecting victims must be a priority in our communities, our state, and our country. There’s no time to waste. We support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, provisions that support the most vulnerable victims, and appropriate funding for the programs it supports.
Advocates Against Domestic Assault
Advocate Safehouse Project
American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado
Clear Creek County Advocates
Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA)
Colorado District Attorneys’ Council (CDAC)
Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR)
Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA)
Colorado SANE/SAFE Project
Colorado Victims for Justice
Colorado Women’s Bar Association
Deaf Overcoming Violence through Empowerment (DOVE)
Domestic Safety Resource Center
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO)
Ending Violence Against Women Project (EVAW), a CDAC Program
Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA)
NARAL of Colorado
Project Hope of Gunnison Valley
RESPONSE: Help for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
Rise Above Violence
Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center (RMCLC)
Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center (RMvlc)
Sexual Assault Response Advocates, Inc. (S.A.R.A., Inc.)
Sexual Assault Services Organization (SASO)
Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center (SAVA)
Soul 2 Soul Sisters
Southern Ute Victim Services Program
TESSA of Colorado Springs
The Arc of Aurora
The Blue Bench
Tu Casa, Inc.
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe RRI Victim Support Services
Violence Free Colorado (formerly Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
WINGS Foundation: Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Women’s Lobby of Colorado (WLC)