The Importance of the Violence Against Women Act
Today I had the opportunity to attend a briefing at the White House titled “The Importance of the Violence Against Women Act.” The event was introduced by Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women (the Obama Administration is the first administration to hire someone in this position), and a panel moderated by award-winning journalist Paula Zahn, which featured:
- The Rev. Dr. Anne Marie Hunter – Director, Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence
- Dave Thomas – Program Administrator, Division of Public Safety Leadership, Johns Hopkins University
- Council Member Devon Boyer – Shoshone-Bannock Tribe
- The Honorable Karen S. Adam – Judge, Arizona Superior Court in Pima County
- Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown
We were also lucky enough to hear about the importance of VAWA from Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women & Girls; Attorney General Eric Holder; and Vice President Joe Biden (who championed the original Violence Against Women Act as a Senator in 1994).
While, as your typical young professional in DC, I couldn’t help but be star-struck by the speakers in my presence, I also learned so much about the importance of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the threat that intimate partner violence still poses to women (and men), and the further refinements that the bill needs to truly reach all Americans. But most importantly, I was reminded that we cannot return to a time without VAWA.
Throughout the panel discussion, former members of law enforcement emphasized that the training they have received through VAWA-funded programs has made them much more effective at protecting victims. Judge Adam explained how the training that each new judge receives before taking the bench in Arizona helps them all to make more well-informed and sensitive decisions when faced with cases in which domestic violence might be a factor. The Rev. Dr. Anne Marie Hunter’s heart-wrenching story of her experience as a victim of domestic violence before VAWA meant that she didn’t have the vocabulary to understand what was happening in her relationship; that her priest, lawyer, and therapist had no training in how to help her; and that law enforcement placed the burden of proof on her, not her abusive husband.
Statistics serve as important barometers and can act as convincing evidence that VAWA is effective and necessary. But it is stories like the Rev. Dr. Hunter’s that really illustrate the prevalence of and the discrimination and lifetime damage caused by domestic violence, dating violence, acquaintance rape, and stalking.
Today, the Senate begins discussion on VAWA Reauthorization in anticipation of a vote early next week. The Senate must immediately vote to reauthorize VAWA as written. As Vice President Biden said, “What are we arguing about? This shouldn’t be hard! ... It would have been bad if the law had never been passed, but imagine now if it wasn’t reauthorized.”
Take action today: Urge your Senators to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act!
Photo courtesy of The White House