Once a bill that sailed through Congress, free from bipartisan debate, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is now under attack. VAWA was first passed in 1994, on the heels of the O.J. Simpson trial, bringing new resources to local law enforcement and providers to develop collaborative approaches in dealing with domestic violence. Research by the RAND Corporation seems to suggest that in California, this funding has provided critical resources that have not only lessened the rate of incidents of domestic violence per capita but has also resulted in a decrease in the severity of the violent act.
Since then, VAWA has helped improve violence prevention programs, rape crisis centers, legal aid for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and much more. When VAWA recently came up for re-authorization, Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Judy Chu sponsored a bill that would expand protections for Native American women, the LGBT community, immigrants, and others that are poorly covered under the Act’s current regulations. Passed by every woman in the Senate, the bill has been opposed in the House with an alternate bill, HR 4970, that decimates protections for some of the most vulnerable members of our society.
State budget cuts have already wreaked havoc for the shelters and other service providers that help victims of domestic and sexual violence. In our work with DV service providers in California, budget delays and cuts have caused closures and increasing fragility that are forcing the sector to entirely re-think their business model. Further cuts to federal legislation will force even more organizations over the brink.
Legislation like HR 4970 would not only cause further financial peril, but could have very a significant and downright dangerous impact for victims. Our work with organizations like the Center for the Pacific Asian Family and the South Asian Helpline and Referral Agency has underscored the critical need for culturally-relevant services for immigrant populations. Among other things, HR 4970 would require the abuser be notified that victims were seeking support from VAWA. This not only decimates confidentiality, but tramples their civil rights.
To speak out against HR 4970, sign UltraViolet’s petition at http://act.weareultraviolet.org/sign/vawa/?source=uv_website. Learn more about VAWA and other legislation supporting victims of domestic violence at http://www.nnedv.org/policy/issues/funding.html.
To learn a little more about the funding history of DV organizations in California, check out the timeline below.