Violence Against Women Act to Expire? …. Again?
Did you know October is Domestic Violence Awareness month? Domestic Violence is still so prevalent in our society. Every 9 seconds a woman in the United States is assaulted by a current or ex significant other. Its estimated that 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. Despite this pervasive problem and even though we’re allegedly living during a time when women are supposedly encouraged to come forward with sexual abuse and domestic violence reports, Congress appears to be nonchalant in its approach to reauthorizing a landmark act. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was set to expire on September 30, 2018. In an effort to avoid yet another government shutdown, President Trump signed a spending bill on September 28, 2018. Included in that larger spending bill was an extension of VAWA only up until December 7, 2018. In order to be reauthorized past December 7, the House and the Senate must vote to approve the long-term extension of VAWA and President Trump would need to sign it.
VAWA was first enacted in 1994. At that time the major media outlets were still busy reporting on the Anita Hill testimony concerning the sexual harassment allegations towards the recently nominated, now Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. Sound Familiar? 1992 was dubbed the “Year of the Woman,” seeing an increase in woman running for Congressional seats.
The same circumstances that gave the country a need for VAWA are once again screaming out for such an act to stay in place in order to provide resources for women who face domestic violence and sexual abuse. Despite the public outcries for VAWA to be reauthorized, Congress has yet to listen. We are watching a movie that the world has seen before, the Brett Kavanaugh allegations and the #MeToo movement demand the need for VAWA remains as strong, if not stronger, than when it was first enacted.
VAWA aids the investigations and prosecutions of some of the most violent crimes against women. If VAWA is allowed to lapse again, it will lead to financial resources being pulled away from women who need them in order to bring these claims against their attackers. It will also have the practical effect of discouraging women from coming forward with their claims. The last time VAWA was allowed to lapse was 2011. That lapse lasted two years before Congress reintroduced the Act. If VAWA is allowed to lapse yet again, there is no telling how long it will be, if ever, that these women will get the support and resources that they need in order to bring forward claims and confront their attackers.