Time is running out.
On Dec. 7, the Violence Against Women Act will lapse if Congress doesn’t take permanent action to reauthorize the landmark legislation. The Act (commonly known as VAWA) was first enacted in 1994 to address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking and has been reauthorized ever since — until now. It’s fate hung in the balance in recent months before it was extended on Sept. 30 through Dec. 7. But that’s not enough. This lackluster extension is only a tactic to allow members of Congress to avoid taking meaningful action on the Act. Failing to renew VAWA by Dec. 7 would only harm survivors of gender-based violence, and hinder efforts to prevent these crimes.
VAWA came in the wake of the headline-making, 1991 Anita Hill hearings and was put in place to provide much-needed grants and support to organizations and programs that work to quell violence against women. Since its enactment, states have passed more than 650 laws to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking and more.
Updates to the act, proposed by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, would only make VAWA more effective. Changes to the legislation include specifications that will allow survivors of domestic violence, assault, and sexual assault to take meaningful legal action against their abusers. The updated Act includes housing protections, justice for survivors on tribal land and increased prevention funding. The updated bill will even close the “boyfriend loophole” by ensuring that dating partners under protective order or convicted of dating violence can’t have a gun. Currently, most states only prohibit these abusers from owning a gun if they are married, live with their partner, or share a child. Now, Lee’s updated bill attempts to make this a federal provision.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the disheartening Brett Kavanaugh hearings, and the many stories of violence against women that have consumed headlines, it is critical that VAWA is renewed. The updated bill will only make the nation safer for survivors and take necessary steps to prevent the violence against women that all too often goes unpunished.
With that, here are four ways you can help to make sure this new, improved VAWA is reauthorized by Dec. 7:
1) Call Your Representative
Call your Congressional rep now and urge them to sign on as a co-sponsor of VAWA (H.R. 6545). Since the Act has always been bipartisan, support from Republican representatives is necessary. Calling puts pressure on your rep and can even influence their vote on an issue. Click here to find out who your U.S. House Representative is and the best number to reach them.
2) Write a Letter to Your Local Paper
Members of Congress and their staff keep an eye on media outlets and will surely see if there is community support for an issue — and will be more likely to support VAWA. Check out these letter templates from the National Domestic Violence Hotline to draft your submission.
3) Sign a Letter of Support
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is accepting signatures to its letter of support from organizations. If you are a member of an organization that cares about VAWA sign on! These letters will be delivered to Congress in a show of widespread support for the legislation.
4) Get Active on Social Media
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr!
Use your social media savvy to draw attention to the issue. The hashtags for VAWA reauthorization are #VAWA4All and #VAWA18. We encourage you to tweet your representative and publicly urge them to support VAWA.
You can find your rep’s Twitter handles and Facebook accounts here.
Together, we can insist Congress passes a strong, bipartisan bill that protects all survivors and prevents domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in our communities. Black Women’s Blueprint is part of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and will continue to do all we can to develop a culture where gender, race and other disparities are erased.
If you are a Black woman in the New York area who is experiencing domestic violence or know someone who is, please reach out to Black Women’s Blueprint at: 347-533-9102/3 or 646-647-5414.