Working with Congress on a regular basis can be exhilarating and infuriating. The past few months have been both when it comes to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a policy priority for AAUW. Our members across the country have been speaking out about the need to reauthorize VAWA and ensure it protects all victims. In the last month, there was hope that a compromise might be reached and that the House and Senate would send a bill to the president’s desk. But that did not happen before the 112th Congress adjourned. You’ll remember that the Senate passed a bipartisan bill in April that would improve VAWA programs and ensure all victims get the services they need. The House, on the other hand, passed a bill a month later that would hurt some victims and fail to make the strides that we need. On January 3, the clock ran out on finding a middle ground.
VAWA — meaning the current protection and prevention programs and victim assistance that are in place — is not dead, though. In fact, as with many of our laws, VAWA will continue in its current form even if Congress doesn’t act on a reauthorization. That’s good news for the 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men who will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. It’s bad news, though, for victims who are overlooked under current law. It’s also bad news that Congress failed to listen when advocates and service providers spoke out about the need to update the law. Isn’t that what we elected our members of Congress to do? When first responders, local law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and victims’ service providers agree that a policy needs updates, it seems logical that policy makers would respond.
I can’t help but wonder how to re-energize after the long haul of the last year. How could Congress not notice the high–profile instances of rape on college campuses and do something about it? The Senate-passed VAWA reauthorization would have put in place more reporting, widespread prevention programming, and stronger policies on college campuses (policies taken from an AAUW-supported bill, the Campus SaVE Act). We need that protection before another school year starts.
I hope you’ll help me convince Congress yet again that we need to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. I’m stopping by congressional offices and writing e-mails; will you, too? You can
- Use AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist tool to look up your members of Congress and call them about VAWA. Enter your zip code in the box on the right side of the page, and it will take you to the biographies and contact information for your members of Congress. Give their offices a call to tell them we need to pass a VAWA reauthorization that helps all victims ASAP!
- Consider writing a letter to the editor in your local newspaper calling on Congress to prioritize VAWA reauthorization. Writing a letter to the editor is easier than you may think, and we can help with talking points and sample letters! E-mail email@example.com with any questions.
- You don’t have to be in Washington, D.C., to meet with your elected officials face to face: Schedule an in-district meeting with your members of Congress and their staffs to discuss VAWA! Start building relationships with your members of Congress early so we can make progress on VAWA and other important issues. Your members of Congress are there to work with and listen to you! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 202.785.7793 for help with scheduling and preparing for a meeting.