Friday, May 11, 2012

The Cautionary Instruction: VAWA protects society’s most vulnerable

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
May 11, 2012

In the fall of 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The law is better known as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Vice-President Joe Biden, then a senator, was an original sponsor of VAWA. The law provided $1.6 billion toward the investigation and prosecution of violence against women.

VAWA passed through Congress with bipartisan support in 1994 and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. Debbie Segal, chair of the ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence said, “VAWA has been the single most effective federal effort to respond to the epidemic of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in this country.”

However, this year the reauthorization of VAWA has been met with opposition. The conservative Heritage Foundation argued that the 2012 version of VAWA expands coverage to men, despite the lack of scientifically rigorous evaluations to determine the effectiveness of existing programs, (last week I wrote about measuring evidence-based programs).

Opponents also suggest that the bill expands upon already duplicative grant programs; surrenders the rights of Americans who are not American Indians to tribal courts; and allow services to populations that previously have been denied access based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

As of 2010, the number of women killed by an intimate partner fell 30 percent, and the annual rate of domestic violence against women fell more than 60 percent. Despite the progress, there remains an overwhelming need for services, as demonstrated by the following:

-- 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
--15.5 million children are exposed to violence annually.
-- 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape.
-- Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year.
-- The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year.

Last week, after much consternation, the U.S. Senate version of VAWA’s reauthorization passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 68-31. The GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to draft its own VAWA reauthorization bill this week.

Representative Sandy Adams, R-Florida, has indicated that, at a minimum, the tribal provisions in the Senate bill are unnecessary.

The current VAWA law lacks tribal protections. Federal statistics indicate that native women are battered, raped, and stalked at far greater rates than any other population of women in the United States. The data indicates that 34 percent of native women will be raped in their lifetimes and about 4 in 10 will be victims of domestic violence.

The House has the chance to reauthorize VAWA and strengthen it through new measures to identify and manage high risk offenders and reduce the scourge of domestic violence. No other bill currently before Congress equals VAWA’s capacity to protect some of society’s most vulnerable citizens.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

VAWA protects society's most vulnerable indeed!? VAWA is a totalitarian travesty of justice. To call women who are serious domestic violence, sexual assault and the majority child abusers in their own right 'vulnerable' is to aid and abet the gender-bigot propaganda industry.

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