I applaud the House of Representatives for introducing today the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), and I urge Congress to come together in a bipartisan manner to ensure swift passage of VAWA legislation in both the House and the Senate. Strengthening and renewing VAWA is long past due. Delay is not an option, especially when the pandemic and economic crisis have only further increased the risks of abuse and the barriers to safety for women in the United States. Domestic violence is being called a pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic, with growing evidence showing that the conditions of the pandemic have resulted in escalated rates of intimate partner violence, and in some cases more severe injuries.
I was raised to believe that the greatest sin was the abuse of power, and I’ve spent my life in public office trying to fight those abuses everywhere I see them. That’s what motivated me to write and champion the original Violence Against Women Act – even as I was told time and time again that domestic violence was a “family issue” that should be left to families to address in private. VAWA has been reauthorized three times with bipartisan support in the years since we first passed it. Each time, I worked to enhance the legislation to address barriers and to expand access to safety and well being for all survivors, including those from marginalized communities. Studies demonstrated that in the first two decades following VAWA’s implementation the rates of domestic violence declined significantly. While there has been significant progress in efforts to prevent and improve the response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, there is still much work to do.
In 2019, a bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, which included significant improvements and increased pathways to safety that were proposed by advocates, survivors, lawyers, experts, prosecutors, and law enforcement who are in the trenches protecting and supporting survivors. Every single Senate Democrat signed on to the Senate version of the House-passed bill, but Republican Senate leadership refused to bring VAWA to the floor for a vote. This should not be a Democratic or Republican issue – it’s a matter of justice and compassion. I am grateful to see the House of Representatives champion ending gender-based violence, and I urge Congress to follow past precedent and bring a strong bipartisan coalition together for swift passage of VAWA.