Domestic Violence Becomes Political Weapon in War on Women

March 15, 2012Katharine Nasielski

Recently it’s seemed as though anything affecting women, from breast cancer to birth control, has been manipulated into a political wedge issue. Today yet another “controversial” issue can be added to the list: domestic violence. About 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, and one in four women in the US has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. Historically, females have been most often victimized by someone they know, and females who are 20 to 24 years old are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) acknowledged that domestic violence and sexual assault are crimes under the law. It also provided federal resources for community-coordinated responses to violence against women. VAWA has since been reauthorized twice (in 2000 and 2005), and it is due for reauthorization in 2011. This year, the legislation reauthorizing VAWA (S.1925) will strengthen programs to assist victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The Violence Against Women Act includes several updates and improvements to the law, including:

  • Improvements in tools to prevent domestic violence homicides by training law enforcement, victim service providers, and court personnel on identifying and managing high risk offenders and connecting high risk victims to crisis intervention services;
  • Improvements in responses to the high rate of violence against women in tribal communities by strengthening concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction over perpetrators who assault Indian spouses and dating partners in Indian country;
  • Measures to strengthen housing protections for victims by applying existing housing protections to nine additional federal housing programs;
  • Consolidation of programs and reductions in authorizations levels to address fiscal concerns, and renewed focus on programs that have been most successful;

Senators who oppose the reauthorization in the current form have expressed that they feel “trapped” by the some of the additions to the bill, specifically the expansion of services for immigrants and people in same-sex partnerships. However, the goal of the reauthorization of any bill is to both modernize and improve it. While these aspects of the reauthorization have been hyper-publicized, the real issue at stake is the continued support for women who have recently left or are still in abusive relationships. Above all, let’s make sure our priority remains the health, safety and well-being of ALL women. Take action today: Urge your Senators to quickly and effectively reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Photo courtesy of National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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