The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally passed in 1994, is set to expire at the end of September. Thousands of women will be left vulnerable, and crisis centers will lose valuable funding, unless the House takes action. But time is of the essence, and there are only four working days left for the House to pass this bill.
To date, other bills are being prioritized, such as a new farm bill and a bill to fund the government to prevent a shut-down. However, with the November elections on the horizon, and many Republics fighting madly to keep their seats, it’s likely both parties will work together quickly to pass an extension, whether in good conscience or good PR.
Republicans On-Board for an Extension
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) filed a bill to extend VAWA six months, which would at least keep the current version of the Act in place. The current Act provides grants for police training, victim services and prevention efforts; it was also instrumental in creating the National Domestic Violence Hotline. According to AshLee Strong, spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, negotiations are underway between the House and Senate to keep VAWA from expiring. Strong is quite optimistic a resolution will be reached.
Democrats Want to Broaden Protection
Democrats, on the other hand, want more than an extension of the status quo. In July, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) filed for an amendment to VAWA, adding the requirement of law enforcement officials to remove weapons from domestic abusers who are not legally allowed to own them, and to significantly increase funding for rape crisis centers. Removal of weapons is a key ingredient to domestic safety; in America, a domestic partner kills a woman with a gun every 16 hours. Time is not on Lee’s side, especially given that the bill is intermixed with other pending legislation. Also, though VAWA was re-authorized in 2000, 2005 and 2013 with bipartisan support, Lee’s bill does not have any Republicans on-board.
Time will tell if VAWA gets extended, and if so, with what protections. If you or someone you love has been the victim of domestic violence, please contact a local domestic violence attorney, who can get you the legal support you need, and help find other support systems to bolster your life.