Why the Violence Against Women Act is about more than just violence against women

By Alison McQuade on
March 30, 2012

No one is for violence against women, right? No one supports rape, domestic violence, stalking, or abuse. And yet, Wednesday, Republicans refused to even consider the Violence Against Women Act.

Changes in the Violence Against Women Act – rights for Native Americans, immigrants, LGBT – were included to reflect the reality of life since the Act was last updated. But Republicans in Congress have made the safety of others political, rather than common sense.

EMILY’s List Representative, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, joined Nancy Pelosi in introducing the legislation and bravely shared her own story of being sexually assaulted. “This is what American women are facing,” Moore said. “This is not a partisan issue and it would be very, very devastating to women of all colors, creeds and sexual orientations for us not to address this.”

“All Americans are entitled to feel safe in their workplace, in their homes, and walking on our streets,” Pelosi said. “Yet too many women continue to live in fear, and that is why we must reauthorize and strengthen and pass the Violence Against Women Act.”

On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking. But VAWA has helped more victims report domestic violence to the police and decreased non-fatal intimate partner violence by 53%. Because of VAWA, more rape crisis centers are available to victims and there are better assistance and recovery resources available to victims following an attack.

But still, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 women in the US has been a victim on severe physical violence by a partner. Nearly 1 in 5 has been raped. So imagine those statistics sans VAWA. Bad news. Imagine not having the Violence Against Women Act.

All 11 EMILY’s List alumnae in the Senate – Senators Boxer, Cantwell, Feinstein, Gillibrand, Hagan, Klobuchar, McCaskill, Mikulski, Murray, Shaheen, and Stabenow – cosponsored the reauthorization of VAWA when it was in the Senate. And all EMILY’s List women in the House cosponsored the legislation there as well. That support is fantastic.

Not reauthorizing VAWA is just another example of members of Congress creating hurdles and barriers for women in their everyday lives and ambitions – including, but not limited to, running for office. We have 5 more amazing, progressive, pro-choice Democratic women poised to join our firewall in the Senate and many more in the House. Hopefully their success can be our success – to make sure we don’t play politics with women’s bodies, health and safety anymore.

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