The year that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed, 1994, and this year bear a remarkable number of similarities. Then, as now, a wave of women had just been elected to Congress under the banner of improving representation and highlighting gender-based discrimination.
Since its inception, VAWA has made strides in preventing violent crimes against women and bolstered community and law enforcement response to gender based violence. But a quarter of a century later, we’re all too aware that these are still systemic issues with no clear end. That is why it is so crucial for legislation like the Violence Against Women Act to be updated and refined. With every VAWA reauthorization, the act has been strengthened and improved.
Over the years this legislation has received strong bipartisan support and reauthorization should happen without a hitch. Unfortunately, reauthorization of VAWA is currently awaiting long-delayed congressional action and its authorization has expired. The Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2019 (H.R. 1585), introduced earlier this month, continues to make VAWA more effective and nimble at addressing the needs of specific vulnerable populations. The current reauthorization includes three key improvements that will save lives:
Closing existing loopholes to better protect victims and survivors from violent offenders with dangerous weapons.
Increasing funding levels for violence prevention programming across the country, a need that has risen dramatically in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Strengthening the authority of tribal courts to prosecute violence perpetrated by non-Native abusers on tribal land. A National Institute of Justice study recently found that a staggering 8o percent of Native American women will be a victim of gender-based violence in their lifetime.
Our faith teaches us that each person bears the image of God. Sexual or physical violence against any person defies this belief and represents a grave injustice. Violence impacts all of us - tearing apart the fabric of communities and our society. Everyone deserves to live free from violence.
Preventing and addressing violence against women builds stronger families and stronger communities. VAWA has a proven track-record of effectiveness over the years. It is long past time to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 2019. Urge your member of Congress to support the reauthorization of VAWA.