In 1994, the United States Congress decided that members of our community who experience sexual or domestic violence should have access to safety, support, and justice. They passed the first Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This law funded efforts to prevent violent crimes, respond to the needs of victims, and change public attitudes towards sexual and domestic violence (Congressional Research Service).
It worked – to an extent. The rate of domestic violence in the U.S. has decreased by 63% since 1994. But 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men still experience severe physical abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetimes (National Task Force to End Sexual & Domestic Violence).
VAWA has been reauthorized with improvements every five years since then. Now, it faces opposition and gridlock in the Senate.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a VAWA reauthorization bill (H.R. 1585) back in April. The Senate hasn’t yet made any movement to take up the House’s bill or write one of their own.
Without a reauthorization of VAWA:
- Essential victim service programs that are funded through VAWA face a future funding shortfall;
- Services continue to leave out victims of dating violence and stalking;
- Tribal governments struggle to hold non-Native abusers accountable.
How does H.R. 1585 improve the current version of VAWA?
Every time VAWA has been reauthorized in the past, Congress has made important improvements. These improvements included ensuring access to victim services for LGBTQ+ people and adding sexual assault and stalking to the crimes addressed by VAWA.
H.R. 1585, like past reauthorizations, makes several essential improvements to VAWA, including:
- More funding for prevention programs;
- Making sure that victims of non-physical (i.e. verbal, emotional, financial, etc.) abuse have access to victim services;
- Adding dating abusers and stalkers to current laws forbidding abusive spouses from having guns; and
- Better access to safe & stable housing for survivors.
That’s why we’re calling on the Senate to pass a bill substantially similar to H.R. 1585. We need your help.
Whether you’ve experienced sexual or domestic violence yourself, someone close to you has, or you simply believe that our community has a responsibility to prevent and address this violence, your voice makes a difference.
Contact your senator today and ask them to commit to supporting a bill with the same provisions as H.R. 1585.
Remember, your senators work for YOU, and they need to hear about what’s important to you. There are a lot of ways you can get in touch with your Senator, including phone calls, emails, town hall meetings, one-on-one meetings, and social media. You don’t have to be an expert on VAWA to make an impact. Here are a few resources to get you started (more are available at www.4vawa.org/.)
Script for Calling Your Senator
My name is [your name], and I am a constituent from [your state]. I am calling today to urge Senator [your Senator’s name] to support a substantially similar companion bill to H.R.1585, the Violence Against Women Act of 2019. The Violence Against Women Act is one of the pillars of the federal response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
[Tell your Senator why VAWA has been so important to your community or, if you have a story you feel comfortable sharing, share your experience].
Every time VAWA has been reauthorized, it has been strengthened based on our increased understanding of gender-based violence. The #MeToo era, when survivors are clamoring for change, is not the time to roll back important protections or even to maintain the status quo. H.R.1585, which passed the House with strong bipartisan support, maintains protections for all victims, makes vital investments in sexual assault prevention, ensures sexual predators who prey on Native women can be held accountable, protects victims of domestic violence from intimate partner homicide, and increases victims’ access to safe housing and economic stability.
As a constituent, I urge Senator [your Senator’s name] to support a substantially similar companion bill in the Senate. Can Senator [your Senator’s name] commit to that?
Email Your Senator
We’ve made it easy to contact your senator via email. Simply click here or the button below to add any personal touches you’d like and email your senator directly.Take Action
Content adapted from the National Task Force to End Sexual & Domestic Violence