Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Reauthorize VAWA’

370px-White_ribbon.svgWorking 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 highprofile 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 advocacy@aauw.org 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 advocacy@aauw.org or call us at 202.785.7793 for help with scheduling and preparing for a meeting.

Read Full Post »

Protestors of the New Delhi gang rape gather on December 30 in Bangalore, India.

Less than a week after the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign — which included hundreds of events demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world — ended, an all too frequent event happened in India — a rape. I’ve blogged about rape before, but this attack captured the attention and outrage of the world.

For more than two weeks, thousands of citizens in India and around the world have protested the brutal gang rape and torture of a 23-year-old Indian woman (called “braveheart” in many news stories) while she and her male companion were riding a bus in New Delhi after leaving a movie theater. She ultimately died from injuries suffered during the brutal assault.

We’ve all heard the tragic story but are unable to comprehend the horrific details. And we can’t avoid the ugly truth — violence against women is a horrendous, appalling, and pervasive reality that has placed an indelible stain on the world. The crime sparked national and international outrage, vigils, and demands to end the culture of rape. It empowered people to stand up and demand action and change from the Indian government and police.

And now, weeks after the horrific event, the men accused of the gang rape have been formally charged with rape, murder, and kidnapping.

Unfortunately, rape is a systemic problem throughout India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in India, a woman is raped every 20 minutes, and in 2010, more than 24,000 rapes were reported. And there are undoubtedly many rapes that go unreported — mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, or friends who become the targets of violence that can end in murder or suicide.

Who can grasp the inexplicable violence directed at women and girls worldwide and the state- and government-sanctioned evasion of protection, responsibility, and justice? India, like many nations, has vowed to take action to make women safer and provide better protection against violence — a daunting challenge in a culture and world that do not value women.

In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point. And survivors of violence need support. This year, one of AAUW’s Community Action Grantees is Safe Connections, which provides counseling and support services to women and teens in the St. Louis metropolitan area who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, or childhood sexual abuse. Another grantee, the African Services Committee’s Project Aimée, serves low-income African immigrant survivors of domestic and gender-based violence in New York City with a combination of legal services, education, and advocacy.

The need for these kinds of programs has grown as violence against women becomes more visible throughout the world. But the shocking tragedy in India could be a turning point. In order to stop this ever-increasing trend of violence, women need action, not empty promises.

We all need to keep the pressure on governments to put into action promises made to eliminate violence against women. Do it for yourself. Do it for a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, or friend. You can make your voice heard on Capitol Hill by urging your legislators to support the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. It’s long overdue. But laws can’t change hearts or minds. That must come from within. What can you do in your community to stop violence against women?

Going to a movie and riding a bus should not cost a woman her life — a woman known as “braveheart.” May her death not be in vain.

Read Full Post »

On January 7, the University of Notre Dame football team will compete to win a U.S. national title. And playing on the team, to the cheers of millions of people, will be two men who, in separate incidents, allegedly raped and sexually assaulted two college women.

Notre Dame vs Syracuse photo courtesy of ctaloi on Flickr Creative Commons

That makes me really mad.

I found out this week that one of the two women committed suicide 10 days after reporting the assault — and receiving a shocking lack of help from campus police and administrators. It wasn’t until the media drew attention to the assault that the campus finally held a disciplinary hearing for one of the accused players six months after the woman’s death. He was found “not responsible” and never sat out a single game. The second player was never charged because the woman he assaulted knew what had happened to the first woman and decided  not to report the crime.

Notre Dame is not the only campus with a sexual assault problem, but attacks don’t make national news every time they occur. Still, many campuses have made headlines for incidents of assault in the past few months, including Amherst College, the University of Montana, and Boston University.

These stories underscore alarming statistics; for instance, 19 percent of college women experience completed or attempted sexual assault or rape. Most perpetrators on campus get away with their crimes, in part because reporting is so low. So many of the few people who do speak out face a lack of response, victim-blaming, or retaliation.

Before they even reported the attacks by Notre Dame football players, the young women allegedly faced threats of retaliation from the friends and teammates of the two men.

As an advocate working to end campus sexual assault, I am disheartened to hear these stories, not only because I know that yet another person has been needlessly traumatized but also because cases like these show how the “right” answer — telling someone to report the crime — may not always be the safest option for the victim or the best way to ensure justice is served.

This is one reason why I feel so strongly about the passage of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act.

The SaVE Act is a provision included in the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act,  which Congress has yet to reauthorize. The SaVE Act would require schools to do more about sexual violence, including creating plans to prevent this violence and educating victims about their rights and resources.

This act is essential since most campuses need to do much more to prevent sexual assault; they need to penalize perpetrators, and they need to do more to help survivors.

If you’re mad like I am, here are three ways to channel your anger:

  1. Urge your representatives to reauthorize VAWA including campus safety provisions from the Campus SaVE Act.
  2. If you know someone on a college or university campus or are on a campus yourself, download and share AAUW’s Campus Sexual Assault Program in a Box. It’s full of useful information about resources like prevention programs and awareness campaigns for campuses.
  3. Share and download a free iPhone and Android app called Circle of 6, which allows friends to help each other out of potentially unsafe situations before they escalate into violence.

Read Full Post »

College students are waiting for Congress to act to provide the resources needed to fight sexual assault on campuses. The U.S. Senate will likely debate the bipartisan Violence against Women Reauthorization Act (S. 1925) soon. VAWA represents a critical piece of legislation on domestic and sexual violence prevention and response nationwide, and the 2012 reauthorization draws necessary attention to college campuses.

The bill strives to ensure that schools report incidences of sexual violence and provide mandatory training on domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault for all incoming students, campus disciplinary boards, and law enforcement. These additions to VAWA are based on what we know goes on at college campuses — and what we know needs to be addressed so that everyone can take advantage of educational opportunities.

A 2007 campus sexual assault study by the National Institute of Justice found that 28.5 percent of college women surveyed were targets of attempted or completed sexual assault before or since they entered college. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network reports that college-age women are four times more likely than any other age group to face sexual assault. In addition, experts believe that rape and sexual assault are among the most underreported crimes.

Critics have claimed that VAWA’s provisions are overreaching, an accusation that is misplaced and damaging to the bill’s true intentions. The provisions simply focus on measures that hold universities accountable.

As a college student, I fully support VAWA’s efforts to ensure that universities do exactly what we need them to do: Spell out policies, conduct prevention training, ensure resources and assistance to victims, and report how often this is happening. AAUW fought hard for these provisions to be included in VAWA because our members understand that access to educational opportunities helps lead to financial security and economic independence. No one should have that opportunity taken away due to an unsafe environment.

VAWA reauthorization is a top priority in the AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign, a nonpartisan effort to mobilize women voters — especially millennial women. Tell your senators to reauthorize VAWA now!

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Elizabeth Owens as part of the April 24 HERVotes blog carnival on the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act. AAUW belongs to the multi-organization HERVotes effort, which seeks to counter attacks on women’s health and economic security (HER).

Read Full Post »

On the Senate’s and your to-do list this week: Move forward the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

This critical legislation provides resources and support for women and girls who have survived domestic and sexual violence. VAWA expired in 2011 and needs to be reauthorized so that those programs are updated and continue to receive funding. The bipartisan bill (S. 1925) includes provisions from the Campus SaVE Act that will help students on college campuses who are subject to sexual assault and violence. AAUW members worked hard to ensure that these provisions were included to protect women from the pervasive sexual violence on campuses that continues to hinder equality in education.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will mark up VAWA this Thursday, February 2. AAUW believes that this bill should be supported by all legislators, but even some senators who have supported VAWA in the past have yet to sign on. Use AAUW’s Action Network to ask your senators to co-sponsor and support VAWA today.

AAUW identified VAWA reauthorization — and the inclusion of protections for students on campuses — as a key priority in our 2011–12 Federal Policy Agenda. In addition, in 2011 a coalition of women’s rights organizations, including AAUW, highlighted VAWA in as one of the top 10 historic advances for women’s lives that are now at risk.

The protections afforded by VAWA — and the message its timely and fully supported passage would send — should be a top focus for us all. Let’s work together to show survivors and women everywhere that violence against women will not be tolerated. To learn more about the reauthorization, visit the coalition website.

This post was written by AAUW Political Media Coordinator Elizabeth Owens.

Read Full Post »