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Jessica Buchleitner – WNN SOAPBOX

In a formal statement directed to the United States Senate on April 24, 2012 before the VAWA bill was pushed through the Senate and onto its second stage at the U.S. House of Congress in February 2013, Deborah Parker, Vice Chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes, shares her own personal experience of violence against women. “I am a Native American statistic,” outlines Parker at a press meeting organized by U.S. Senators Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, and Amy Klobuchar. “I am a survivor of sexual and physical violence,” she continued. Parker was dignified and restrained, yet emotional and uncomfortable, as she talked about the abuse she herself was subjected to as a child as she highlighted the need for greater legislative protections for all Native American women in the VAWA bill. The current language of the VAWA bill now includes a provision for Native American Indian women. It’s expected that the bill will go on to the House sometime this week. Image: Office of Senator Patty Murphy/Youtube

(WNN) San Fransisco, California, UNITED STATES: On February 14, 2013 millions of women worldwide participated in Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women. Just two days earlier (Feb. 12, 2013), the United States Senate easily passed S.47, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill, officially transmitting the issue to the U.S. House of Congress, and onto the tables of Republican Leaders in U.S. politics. A strong, inclusive bill to reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act sponsored by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID) passed 78 to 22. It already had 62 cosponsors, which ensured its passage, but picked up additional support from a handful of Republicans.

The U.S. legislative bill authorizes $659 million over a period of five years for VAWA programs. It also expands VAWA to include new protections for LGBT and Native American victims of domestic violence with the intention of giving more attention to sexual assault prevention and to aid in the processing of rape kits.

The Violence Against Women Act, enacted in 1994, recognizes the insidious and pervasive nature of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and supports comprehensive, effective and cost saving responses to these crimes. VAWA programs, administered by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, give law enforcement, prosecutors and judges the tools they need to hold offenders accountable and keep communities safe while supporting victims.

Passed in 1994, VAWA has helped to strengthen programs and services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Upon reauthorization in 2000 and 2005, it has evidently changed the landscape awarding victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking more access services and legal protections.

Whether policymakers want to admit it or not and while U.S. House members squabble over radical  feminism and cost of this legislation- these are serious crimes with drastic consequences of long standing effects on our society at large.

One argument against VAWA is that it federalizes crime that is better dealt with on the local level.  Another is that it is ‘money grubbing feminist ideology’.

Regardless of one’s political stance, one in three women continue to be beaten, coerced into sex or abused in her lifetime, outlines the United Nations. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), a woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States. 52 percent of assaults will never be reported to the police and 97 percent of perpetrators will never spend a day in jail for their crimes.

Commonly in these cases, there are a lack of resources available to victims and lack of legal protection.

We live in world where rape is too often written off as ‘female drama’. Where domestic violence is frequently minimized as couples squabbling. Where predatory stalking victims are met by eye rolls at police stations and told that the police ‘needs to gather more evidence’. VAWA addresses these issues by strengthening the law enforcement response and providing victim services and victim advocacy.

VAWA must be swiftly reauthorized to ensure the continuation of these vital, lifesaving programs and laws.

U.S. House Republican leaders are ready to move forward on legislation reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act as soon as next week. In the time it took to pen this argument, 15 women were sexually assaulted in the United States. In the time it will take them to reach a consensus, hundreds of thousands more will be perpetrated. The new bill will include improvements with regard to the criminal justice system’s response to crimes including sexual assault and homicides resulting from domestic violence. It also foresees enhanced protections for Native American and Alaskan Native women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims, as well as immigrant victims and their children.

Whether a citizen in the U.S. is a Democrat, Republican, or part of a side-lined political party, we need legislation that protects women —   bottom line. Violence against women is not a partisan issue. It is a serious societal pestilence destroying generations of victims.

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Jessica Buchleitner is the creator of The 50 Women Project and serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors of San Francisco Based UN consultative NGO, Women’s Intercultural Network. In March 2013, she will attend the 57th annual session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations where she meets annually with victim advocates from over 30 countries. Follow her on Twitter @50Womenproject

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