Violence against women presents in frighteningly high statistics. Three women are killed by intimate partners every day. One in six women has been raped. Countless women live in the shadow of abuse and fear. The Violence Against Women Act has garnered a great deal of attention recently. VAWA was originally passed in 1994 and is usually is extended without much of a production but last year Congress failed to do so when some members of the House objected to expanding provisions to include Native Americans, undocumented immigrants and members of the LGBT community. VAWA supports programs and services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
This year’s version of the Senate bill authorizes $659 billion over the next five years for VAWA programs. It also expands VAWA to include additional measures to protect LGBT and Native American victims of domestic violence but leaves out protections for undocumented immigrants. Provisions will also increase attention to sexual assault prevention and to help reduce a backlog in processing rape kits. The bill passed the Senate on February 12, 2013 by a vote of 78 – 22 with 62 cosponsors.
As the bill moves to the House, it’s fate remains unclear. A question many raise is why anyone would object to protecting women. Senator Marco Rubio D-FL, who voted against the Senate version of the bill has issued a statement citing several concerns including giving Indian tribal courts jurisdiction over any incidents that occurred on tribal lands including over persons of non-Indian descent. All eyes now turn to the a House and already seventeen House members have written to Speaker of the House John Boehner R-OH and Majority Leader Eric Cantor R-VA recommending immediate passing of a bipartisan VAWA bill but without specifically endorsing the Senate’s version.
“Now is the time to seek bipartisan compromise on the reauthorization of these programs,” the letter reads. “VAWA programs save lives, and we must allow states and communities the opportunity to build upon the success of current VAWA programs so that we can help even more people.”