Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Rally
As an intern for Women’s Action for New Direction’s Washington, D.C. office, I am fortunate to be able to attend important political events. On June 26, 2012, men and women from a variety of organizations rallied in front of the United States Capitol in support of the reauthorization of the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This version includes expanded provisions protecting sexual assault victims in the immigrant and LGBT communities, as well as on Native American reservations and college campuses. While the Senate overwhelmingly passed their bill by a vote of 68 to 31, the House version, passed by a vote of 222 to 205, fails to include any of the expanded provisions and instead excludes vulnerable groups of women that deserve equal protection from domestic violence. The two disparate versions of the bill must now be reconciled before going to a vote.
VAWA, first passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, has never been considered a controversial piece of legislation and instead has received substantial bipartisan support in the past. It provides invaluable services and resources for victims, including legal aid, community prevention programs, and funding for rape crisis centers and hotlines. However, current support for the bill’s different versions is strongly defined along partisan lines, resulting in a political impasse that could block reauthorization and leave countless victims of domestic violence without legal protection and services. Participants in today’s rally expressed their outrage over such a scenario. Amidst chants of “Pass VAWA now!,” speakers passionately described the importance of the bill, not only as a protection for victims of domestic abuse, but as a symbol of the United States’ concern and compassion for its most vulnerable populations.
Standing at the rally and listening to the impassioned chants and speeches, one couldn’t help but feel troubled, even angry, over Congress’s partisan deadlock on such vital legislation. The United States should be a global leader on human rights and democratic principles. What kind of example do we set, then, when our government blatantly excludes groups from receiving some of the most basic human protections? Reauthorization and expansion of the Violence Against Women Act should not be a controversial matter. Congress needs to act now and pass the Senate version of VAWA before millions of women are left without support, protection or justice.
-Shanna Weitz, Intern - Johns Hopkins University Class of 2012