It’s been 508 days since the Violence Against Women Act expired. This means that it’s been 508 days since services crucial for women who have experienced violence have been stymied, leaving thousands of women protected and supported by domestic violence shelters around the country without recourse from their abusers and without a safety net. The bill, which was first ratified in 1994, has been ratified with relatively little commotion every year since, even when Republicans had control of most government branches. Until the House of Representatives comes together to reauthorize the bill, the protections that once kept women safe are nonexistent. Others have expressed their chagrin at the way that House Republicans have dragged their feet on this vital bill more articulately than I (some in gif form) which leaves me only to lament the egregious justifications that House Republicans have provided for refusing to pass this crucial piece of legislation.
So, with all the vitriol directed at them as consequence, why won’t House Republicans support this bill?
1. Because men can stand violence better than women:
Photo Credit: Marcus Quagmire
Representative Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee said that while he is unsure if he will support VAWA, he believes that men are better equipped to handle violence than women are. The Huffington Post reports:
"Like most men, I'm more opposed to violence against women than even violence against men," Duncan said. "Because most men can handle it a little better than a lot of women can."
It’s unclear how Duncan’s essentialist perspective has kept him from supporting VAWA (as misguided as it is, it seems that one with such a framework would be in favor of laws protecting women, not against them), or how that statement relates to VAWA at all. However, it seems that Duncan’s unwillingness to support VAWA is directly correlated with his unusual belief.
2. Because they hate LGBT people:
Photo Credit: AJ Alfieri-Crispen
The version of VAWA passed by the Senate would allow LGBT persons, who experience domestic abuse and violence at a rate comparable to non-LGBT persons, to receive services often made inaccessible by homophobia. Many House Republicans last session worked to impede LGBT rights. Many of those anti-gay crusaders are the same actors opposing VAWA; it’s unlikely that many of these representatives have had a change of heart when it comes to much needed equality in LGBT access to services.
3. Because fear of native power trumps ending the abuse of women:
Photo Credit: Eric Draper
VAWA contains some elements that allow native women to receive protection from tribal powers. As the New York Times reports, most Republicans are primarily concerned with "the expansion of tribal court authority," afraid that the bill’s provision for is "an unconstitutional power grab" on the part of tribal powers. Right now, as Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) puts it, "non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on tribal lands are essentially "immune from the law, and they know it." As one in three native women have been raped, and face incredible barriers to reporting and pressing charges against those who assault them. It’s clear that, in spite of House Republicans' qualms, an allowance for native women to is a vital part of the bill and key to ending violence against women around the country.
Until House Republicans end their 508 days of hand wringing about these points, there are few federal authorized provisions for women who are abused or assaulted. We can only hope that our Representatives realize the urgency of the passage of VAWA soon.