End VAWA? Over my dead body

Story by Taylor Kuether, Managing Editor

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A woman is a woman. Being born an American, middle-class white woman does not make me any more of a woman than a woman who immigrated to the United States, a Native American woman, or a transgendered woman. This is an indisputable fact. But the Republican party disagrees, and because of that, the Violence Against Women Act was not reauthorized into law.

The VAWA was signed into law in 1994 and was drafted and proposed by none other than (then-Delaware senator) Vice President Joe Biden (we love you, Joe!).

VAWA provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted, established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice and supported organizations that serve domestic violence victims.

And its benefits were tremendous. According to CNN, the act dramatically reduced death by domestic violence over the past two decades.I struggle to see a downside to an act designed to protect women from violence. Fortunately, our good ol’ Republican pals can find a downside to anything, and managed to find one in VAWA.
Go figure.

VAWA was reauthorized by Congress in 2000 and again in 2005. But when time came for its 2012 renewal, it was suddenly opposed by conservative Republicans bothered by the law’s extension to protect same-sex couples and immigrants.

Please excuse me while I get furious right now. The protection of safety of women in the U.S. is in jeopardy because a few Republicans don’t want the law to protect a few groups of people that they’re not fond of? You have got to be kidding me. These are human lives that are being protected by an act that, to me, is a no-brainer. How anyone could want to compromise that is beyond me.

Let me put this in perspective for you: A woman reports a rape every six minutes in this country (keep in mind that number is only reported rapes – the actual number is about five times higher). A woman is beaten every nine seconds – yes I said SECONDS – in this country.

That means that while you were sitting in a 50 minute lecture, at least eight women were raped and about 300 women were beaten in the United States alone.

In Rebecca Solnit’s Jan. 25 Mother Jones article, she wrote, “So many men murder their partners and former partners that we have well over 1,000 homicides of that kind a year — meaning that every three years the death toll tops 9/11’s casualties, though no one declares a war on this particular terror.”

I don’t know how I can make it any clearer that something needs to be done about violence against women, both in this country and worldwide. In 1994, we did try to do something about it, and now that is under attack, too.
If our lawmakers can’t agree that it’s important to protect women from violence, I don’t believe there is hope for them to agree on anything. Quite frankly, that disgusts me.

We elected these people to make decisions on our behalf and instead they tear apart whatever progress has been made all while bickering over topics as obvious as “guns kill people.” (Which, by the way, Solnit addressed in that same MoJo article: “Of 62 mass shootings in the U.S. in three decades, only one was by a woman, because when you say lone gunman, everyone talks about loners and guns but not about men.” Preach it, Solnit!)

I return to my first statement: a woman is a woman. She is a human being and deserves to be and feel safe. We live in a country – and in a world – where violence against women is rampant. It is so heartbreakingly common that often we don’t even think twice when we hear about it in the news. So if we created just one law aimed at lessening that violence, why would we ever want to get rid of it?

VAWA is a strong, sensible law, the benefits of which are impossible to dispute. It grants the same level of protection to a white woman as it would to a woman of any minority – and why shouldn’t it?

Every single woman in this country (and on this planet) has an inalienable right to protection from harm – and in 1994, we finally put that sentiment into law by creating VAWA.

While the law’s renewal efforts failed last year, 2013 yields a new Congress. In a recent CNN interview, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D. – Calif.) said she hopes the law will be revived by the new Congress. I sincerely hope she’s right.

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