The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) has working with Congress for over a year to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with modest but vital fixes that close gaps in current law and provide support and safety to all victims of sexual and domestic violence. After extensive outreach to domestic violence shelters, advocates, lawyers, and others, NCADV and our sister organizations presented Congress with a strong and largely noncontroversial reauthorization that was designed to garner bipartisan support and not only maintains what we currently have but also:
- Invests in prevention;
- Protects underserved populations;
- Provides access to justice for Native American victims of domestic and sexual violence;
- Provides better housing options for survivors who need to leave their abusers;
- Ensures survivors have access to vital economic supports;
- Supports alternatives to a criminal justice system response in accordance with the wishes of the survivor;
- Promotes robust enforcement of court orders; and
- Provides stronger protections for victims under federal firearms laws.
These are modest but vital fixes, identified by domestic violence shelters, advocates, and other professionals who respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
We will not settle for less.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2018 (H.R.6545) that does all of these things and more, and we applaud her for taking a stand for victims and survivors. 163 members of the House of Representatives stand with her.
Congress has had more than a year-and-a-half to reauthorize VAWA with meaningful fixes, but it has failed to do so. They have had months to take action on H.R.6545, but they have done nothing. Now, as VAWA approaches expiration on September 30, those in charge of Congress feel the pressure of the deadline and have added a ten-week extension of VAWA to a must-pass spending bill, picking the can down the road until after the election. This allows them to go home and say they protected VAWA without having to take real and meaningful action. An average of three-to-four women are murdered daily by their intimate partners. Every day we delay passing a comprehensive VAWA reauthorization costs lives.
The decision to extend VAWA’s authorization was made without any input from the field. The extension is also unnecessary. The must-pass spending bill will fund VAWA through December 7th. Congress routinely funds unauthorized programs while reauthorization efforts are ongoing, and VAWA is no exception VAWA was unauthorized from 2010 through 2013, and Congress not only funded it each of those years, it increased its funding! We do not need this temporary extension in order for VAWA to be funded; we need Congress to collaborate with us and with Representative Jackson Lee to take meaningful, bipartisan action to protect victims and survivors.
Instead of supporting a bill that meets the needs of victims and survivors, suddenly, with the date of expiration upon us, there are a wave of bills from Members of Congress who had every opportunity to work with us and with Representative Jackson Lee months ago to put forward a robust, bipartisan bill. One of the bills, introduced by Representative Elise Stefanik, tries to continue the trend of kicking the can down the road by extending VAWA authorization for six months, but it fails even to do that. That bill only reauthorizes some VAWA programs, leaving out many important programs including rape prevention grants, services for victims of sexual assault, grants to tribes and other underserved communities, and grants to address the rape kit backlog.
Survivors and their families are counting on everyone in Congress to take a stand on their behalf and seriously consider the critical improvements in H.R.6545, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee’s Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018. This bill does not include extreme changes that would excite controversy – it reflects the fixes and modest improvements that the field has said are needed. If Congress is truly committed to protecting and serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, they should pass H.R.6545 before leaving town.