The Violence Against Women Act is not and should not be a partisan measure.
President Bush signed its reauthorization in 2005, after it passed the House by a vote of 415-4. In 1994, it received bipartisan support. Literally nothing in this bill merits opposition. In 2005, the ACLU called it “one of the most effective pieces of legislation enacted to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.” It has made the United States a world leader in domestic violence. From 1994 to 2002, the Act saved almost $15 billion in social costs.
So, I guess I’m confused why this is suddenly such a big deal, and why Republicans would be opposed to such a successful act. It passed the Senate with some of the biggest opposition it has ever faced—admittedly, fifteen republicans voted for it—and the prospects are bleak for the bill in the House. That just doesn’t make any sense to me, especially when the changes are so common sense.
There are some “controversial provisions.” For example, this year’s VAWA Reauthorization closes loopholes that protect people who commit domestic violence against tribal women. Additionally, the bill would help LGBT and undocumented survivors. While these are traditional sites of opposition for the Republican party, it seems like they are saying that these human beings don’t merit protection because they fall outside “social values.” As Patrick Leahy said on the Senate floor, “You don’t say we can help you if you fit in this category, but sorry battered woman, you’re on your own, because you’re in the wrong category. That’s not America.”
While I vehemently disagree with Republicans on their opposition to those small portions of the bill, they will enter the realm of the absolutely unacceptable if they decide to vote down this bill on this items. If we don’t reauthorize VAWA, we send the worst message of all to women in this country and to survivors of domestic violence.
For me, one reality remains. One of every four women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. When I look at my sister and my mother, I can not imagine a world where we would not extend this. Since when did “social values” prevent us from voting on an act that protects women? It’s time to say that our “social values” condemn perpetrators of domestic violence and defend survivors. That’s the America that I believe in.
But as Senator Bernie Sanders once said, maybe it would be different if there were 83 women in the Senate, and not 83 men.
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