Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act: A Priority for Protecting our Communities – Sosamma Samuel-Burnett

By Sosamma Samuel-Burnett
Founder/President, GLOBAL Justice
Advocacy Committee, Zone Club of Fort Collins (CO)

Domestic violence is a real and persistent problem in the U.S. and around the world. On average, four to five people are murdered by their intimate partners each day in America. Several hundred people are raped or sexually assaulted daily. Domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (“the four crimes”) affect more than just the victims of these abuses. They fill emergency rooms and morgues, keep employees from being able to work, terrorize children, and interfere with their ability to learn. They drive up health care costs, contribute to crime on our streets, and cause lasting harm to families and communities.

Protecting our families and communities requires not only appropriate responses to these crimes, but also investment in prevention. Prevention measures must include: increasing access to justice and safety is essential for women, especially Native women; holding perpetrators accountable rather than punishing victims; improving enforcement of protective orders; and ensuring victims and survivors have safe housing and economic stability.

Protecting our families and communities requires not only appropriate responses to these crimes, but also investment in prevention.
— Sosamma Samuel-Burnett

Protection and prevention also require the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Congress passed the VAWA initially in 1994 to improve the nation’s response to the four crimes in all our communities. It has been reauthorized three times since then, in 2000, 2005, and 2013; each reauthorization made vital improvements to previous law. The continued reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, with modest but meaningful improvements that enhance our nation’s response to such crimes, is essential for ongoing protection and prevention against these abuses.

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas-18) has introduced H.R.6545, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018. This bill, based on extensive consultation with victim service providers, law enforcement, and other experts, preserves previous gains and improves current law to better meet the needs of victims and survivors of domestic violence. It invests in prevention. It increases access to justice and safety for all women, including Native women. It protects victims and survivors and helps them rebuild their lives.

The current VAWA authorization expires on September 30, 2018. Now more than ever, we need Congress to make it a priority to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with the modest improvements included in H.R.6545. This essential legislation funds victim services, prevention programs, and other critically needed community services.

Domestic and sexual violence threaten individuals, families and communities. Stopping domestic and sexual violence and protecting victims must be a priority in our cities, our states, and our country. Congress should reauthorize VAWA and provide appropriate funding for the programs it supports. Contact your Congressional representatives this week to urge them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act to continue to help prevent domestic violence and protect our communities.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by G.L.O.B.A.L. Justice. We are a faith-based, nonpartisan organization that seeks to extend the conversation about justice with a posture of dignity and respect.