Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994. The act addresses sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. It provides grants and support to organizations and law enforcement programs that work with victims towards the goal of prevention and assistance.
On July 26, Congress was presented with the defense and health spending bill and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. It was granted only short-term authorization, until Dec. 7.
In 2013, the bill was updated to amend definitions of “culture-specific” and “population-specific.” “Intimate partner” was added to domestic violence definitions, as well as updating rural definitions to include Native Americans and updated census data.
Definitions of gender identity were included for clarification, and the term “youth” was given an age bracket of “11-24.”
2018 revisions are as simple as striking sentences, such as “older and disabled women,” and inserting, “people 50 years of age and over and people with disabilities.”
The section titled, “Grant Eligibility Regarding Compelling Victim Testimony,” was revised to “…that the surrender, removal, and storage of firearms and ammunition from persons prohibited from possessing firearms…is carried out in a manner to ensure victim and community safety.”
The specific revisions that led to the short-term authorization have not been stated. Reasons are rumored by various news sources and blogs to be bipartisan issues. In 2013, 138 Republicans voted nay on VAWA before President Obama signed the bill. However, 46 House Republicans such as Jeff Denham, Rodney Davis, Elise Stefanik, and John Katko sent a letter encouraging the 2018 Bill to be brought to the floor. “Since being signed into law in 1994, VAWA has helped to protect and support millions of Americans who have faced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” they wrote.
“What that is a signal of, is that they do not have agreement among themselves,” Mesa Community College Political Science teacher, Brian Dille said. “They’re basically kicking the can down the road. They’re saying, look we know this is important. We can’t just do away with it. But, we also don’t have agreement on what the next version should look like.”
The revised act, also known as H.R. 6545, is sponsored by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). The co-sponsors are a long list of Democrats. “The argument is probably between the Republicans,” said Professor Dille to a long list of Democrat co-sponsors. “But, (the short-term authorization) means that it’s important enough, they can’t just kill it.”
Vanessa Verdugo was involved in a romantic relationship for a year before she became victim to harassment and stalking. Her home was broken into and days leading to the break-in she received threatening text messages from her ex-partner. “I felt unsafe, I felt like I couldn’t even go to work without him showing up or being in my home, or just going anywhere for that matter.”
After the break-in, Verdugo decided to go to court and file a protection order. She was asked to fill out a questionnaire and saw a judge within an hour. The protection order was granted and she was told to present the restraining order to her local police department. The police department asked for work and home address of her former partner to serve him the order. They made her aware of the process if they were unable to serve him after the third attempt.
According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Denver based organization, reported 10 million people a year suffer from physical abuse by an intimate partner. This breaks down to 20 people per minute will be physically harmed by their significant other. The agency also reports: “1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.”
Center for American Progress highlighted the history of VAWA. For two years, the law remained expired due to disagreement on new proposed extensions of the bill. Conservative Republicans disapprove an increase on temporary visas and protecting same-sex couples. Until April 26, 2012, the bill passed by a vote of 68-31, 15 Republicans voted in favor of the bill.
The federal law has until Dec. 7 for the House of Representatives to decide on VAWA. Currently, the act protects women regardless of their status in this country, Native Americans and LGBTQ community against sexual assault, harassment, and stalking. Survivors are encouraged to come forward.
Alli Cripe and Dominique Leyva collaborated on this story.