Second Chances

Protection and politics...
Safety at risk…

What was thought to be a given and a protection for women appears to be in jeopardy.  The Violence Against Women Act which was signed into law by President Clinton and enacted in 1994, has unfortunately expired.  The House of Representative Republicans are refusing to take the time to reauthorize it.  Is it my imagination, but has domestic violence ended in America?  I don’t think so…

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides $1.6 Billion in funding to fight against crimes and ensure proper prosecution for criminals by establishing the Department of Justice and the Office on Violence Against Women.  Bottom line: the VAWA holds offenders accountable and protects victims.

From the website, here’s a few of the important parts of the VAWA:

  1. Mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order.
  2. Increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets.
  3. Keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States.
  4. Holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial.
  5. And the list goes on and on…

According to Mary C. Curtis (The Washington Post) citing Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy in regards to the latest attempt to reauthorize the VAWA: “The bill closely mirrors the bill that was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate last year, and is the result of close consultation with law enforcement officials and the dedicated experts in the field who are so committed to saving the lives of many women around this country.  The legislation provides a lifeline for women and children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault…”

What’s holding up the reauthorization?  The VAMA is stuck in a political bickering twilight zone and a Congress that is allergic to the word productive.  Also, conservative Republicans don’t want to extend protections to same-sex couples and abused illegal immigrants.  Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times: “That will leave House Republicans a stark choice: stand against the provisions that derailed the bill last year or adjust, given November’s electoral blowout with women.  Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, practically pleaded with her party on Monday to move forward.”

Here’s the petition to motivate and remind House Majority Leader Republican Eric Cantor that women deserve better:

Or give Eric Cantor’s Washington office a call: (202) 225-2815

Or his Culpeper office: (540) 825-8960

Or his Richmond office: (804) 747-4073

Not everything in life deserves a second chance but the Violence Against Women Act has earned it and more.  The United States is a leader in the world and needs to set a high standard on human rights.  Progress can’t be taken for granted and it needs to be guarded and expanded to do the most good.  Protection should have no expiration date and not be based on age, legal status, sexual orientation, and economic status.  Safety and dignity should have no * or small print.


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