As a former counselor and advocate for victims of domestic and sexual abuse I’ve encountered families abandoning loved ones and all material possessions to flee for safety. I have also witnessed the horrific bruises, broken bones, and multiple stab wounds suffered by women who sought refuge and protection at the shelter. Throughout all my experiences, these victims became aware, informed and empowered. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has made this movement and shift in power possible.
One would think that a law as impacting as the Violence Against Women Act would never be left to expire but it seems that Congress feels no need to support these victims and put through this Act that aids in the rescue and rehabilitation of the traumatized lives of these victims. I ask myself why Congress would fail its country this way; according to The Atlantic’s article on Violence Against Women Act, the bill expired in October of 2011 after conservative lawmakers cringed at the addition of expanded protections for undocumented immigrant, Native American, and LGBT victims of sexual assault. If that wasn’t enough of a hard pill to swallow, the Republican-controlled House passed a watered down version in May stripping the protections for these diverse populations. Is the real reason the bill was left to expire to oppose help for diverse populations?
According to The New York Times, Alabama Senator, Jeff Sessions expressed that the proposed amendments to expand protections to diverse communities began to stir up conservative opposition. Although he did not specify what exactly he was opposing, each amendment; allowing undocumented immigrants to claim temporary visas after suffering sexual abuse, including same-sex couples in domestic violence programming, or expanding tribal authority to prosecute domestic violence against Native American women, demonstrates that Congress still remains much older, whiter and more male than the general United States population. In other words, lacking sensitivity to diversity.
Advocates for Violence Against Women Act angered over Congress’ failure
When speaking to CarlLa Horton, Executive Director of Hope’s Door in New York and a very active champion for the fight against Domestic Violence, she expressed her revulsion for Congress’ failure. She added in her statement:
Since its inception in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has helped tens of thousands of victims achieve safety, justice and healing from the trauma of domestic and sexual violence. Last year, Hope’s Door used VAWA funding to support our shelter, hotline, counseling, support group, advocacy, and teen dating abuse prevention programs. We served 765 victims of abuse–up 52% in just one year–and empowered 10,130 teens with potentially life-saving information in our dating abuse prevention program. In throwing VAWA under the bus (i.e. allowing it to expire for the first time since 1994), the House Republicans have demonstrated a callous disregard for the lives and safety of women.
Advocates of the law hope to revive the Violence Against Women Act in the new Congress, but in the meantime, there will be far fewer resources available for state and local governments to combat domestic violence. Domestic Violence is not a partisan issue; Congress I hope can pass the Violence Against Women Act despite it seeming to be too supportive of immigrants, the LGBT community and Native Americans. When a beaten wife of a prominent doctor came seeking safety at the shelter wearing her mink coat, it was with the resources provided under the Act that she was protected.