Now that the election is over, the ruthless political ads have stopped, and the majority of Facebook newsfeeds have gone back to descriptions of what we had for lunch that day, it’s time to get back to reality. It is amazing how fired up people can get over politics, but after the big day, we lose that passion. No matter how exhausted you may feel, civic duty does not end at the polling booth. Regardless of your political affiliation, we all have either known someone or been the victim of domestic violence ourselves. It is a societal disease that permeates through class, age, religion, gender, race, culture, education level and sexual orientation.
Here are some sobering facts: 1 in 4 women have been beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood. Every day, 3 women are killed by a current or former intimate partner. These statistics point out horrific facts about American society and what we tolerate. Domestic violence is one of the most chronically under-reported crimes. While men can also be victims, women are disproportionately affected. After the smoke clears, life isn’t about donkeys and elephants. It is about real, human lives.
In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, was enacted to combat the epidemic of intimate partner violence in the United States. By gaining bipartisan support, VAWA programs and initiatives have increased the reporting of domestic violence by 51% in women and 37% in men. Further, all states have passed laws making stalking a crime and strengthened rape laws. In addition, the number of women killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34%. These results were made possible by the support and development of programs, training and services that are supported by VAWA.
The 112th Congress ends on January 3rd. With the closing of those doors also goes the reauthorization of VAWA 2012. While the act has made significant improvements to our nation’s response to domestic violence, there are still issues that need to be addressed.
Currently, there are two different versions of VAWA in Congress. According to the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, S. 1925 represents the VAWA reauthorization legislation that is supported by law enforcement, religious, education, legal, and service professionals across the nation. It specifically addresses the needs that were emphasized by a 2009 study such as lack of LGBTQ support services, barriers for undocumented immigrants, and high numbers of Native American and Native Alaskan victims.
This is not a partisan issue. It is an American issue. It is critical that we keep up our campaign momentum to contact elected representatives and advocate for the reauthorization of VAWA. For useful fact sheets and toolkits, visit 4vawa.org.