VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT

Yesterday, congress finally renewed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

 

Domestic ViolenceRainbow

When it first passed in 1996, the landmark federal legislation Violence Against Women Act recognized the severity of domestic violence and improved the criminal justice response to violent acts against women.

Following the enactment, numerous states adopted new laws addressing partner violence, sexual violence and stalking. Through VAWA there is federal funding to support rape crisis centers and more women have been willing to report sexual assault. Services under VAWA also include provisions for children and teenagers.

When Congress passed the Violence Against Women and the Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 it authorized appropriations through 2009 to cover many programs for victims. Some of these are: legal assistance, a court-appointed advocate program and crime victim support. A few of the many other components are: sex offender management, a stalker database, and making cyberstalking a crime. In the 2005 vote there were only four “no” votes. Yesterday, the bill passed 286-138 with 87 Republicans voting in favor. After many delays, President Obama will now be able to sign this important bill into law, including provisions that expired in 2011 due to failure of Congress to act.

Constituents, especially constituent women of the 138 Republicans who voted no -against this essential legislation, should demand answers. Why are your elected officials not supporting important legislation affecting women in every state? And –  why did Ruben Hinojosa, Texas Democratic and “hard core liberal” with two daughters, fail to vote on this important legislation?

Domestic violence is an underreported reported crime. Violence in a household affects everyone living in the home. The abuser often uses children and pets as weapons. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports 30-60% of perpetrators in partner violence also abuse children. As most people know, male children witnessing domestic violence are more likely to abuse their own children and partners when they become adults.

To understand the meaning of domestic violence we must look at definitions. Many women know they are in bad relationships and do not know how to escape. They are ill-prepared to deal with the crisis—when love turns violent. Violent doesn’t necessarily mean physical harm. Violence comes in many forms. Read the definition below carefully.

Definition of Domestic Violence:

  • A pattern of abusive behavior that is used by an intimate partner to gain or maintain power and control over the other intimate partner
  • Physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person
  • Any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

Source: United States Department of Justice  http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/areas-focus.html

Based on information from the Violence Against Women Survey from the National Institute of Justice and the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that over a lifetime, one in four women will experience domestic violence. If you are aware of anyone in an abusive relationship, it is important to intervene. Approximately 1/3 of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.

All states have passed laws making stalking a crime and changed laws that treated date or spousal rape as a lesser crime than stranger rape.

Definition of Sexual Assault:

  • Any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs by force or without consent of the recipient of the unwanted sexual activity.
  •  Falling under the definition of sexual assault is sexual activity such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.
  • It includes sexual acts against people who are unable to consent either due to age or lack of capacity.

Source: United States Department of Justice   http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/areas-focus.html

Definition of Stalking:

  • Stalking can be defined as a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

Source: United States Department of Justice   http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/areas-focus.html

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474
1-866-331-8453 (TTY)

http://www.thehotline.org/get-educated/violence-against-women-act-vawa/

Statistics from the www.whitehouse.gov site note a 67% decline in the rate of intimate partner violence up to 2010, but domestic violence is pervasive. Safe houses are becoming more available for women fleeing violent relationships. Please call the above phone numbers for assistance and advice. VAWA is an important law with provisions for victims without discrimination and programs to improve the handling of domestic violence against women and children.

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