Violence Against Women Act Expires: Congress Won’t Support Expansion

Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has provided protection against sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence, and has given funding to organizations and programs that work to fight these crimes and support the victims. It was a bipartisan act that still did not fill all the funding gaps needed to help victims of violence—that is, until this year when Congress decided to kill it. The act vanished, and with it went millions of dollars in funding for victims who have no attorneys, no lobbyists, and no money to find support.

What happened? The Senate version expanded protection to members of the LGBTQ community, immigrants who may or may not be in the country legally, and American Indians who still do not have the right to try non-Native Americans in tribal courts. It was this expansion that Congress ultimately objected to.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “More than one-quarter of women who identified as American Indian or as Alaska Native and one in three women who identified as multiracial non-Hispanic reported rape victimization in their lifetime.”

Yet few of these victims ever see their attackers brought to justice, in large part due to lack of resources. There are hospitals in this country that do not have rape kits. They do not have the money to buy cameras to take photos of victims’ injuries for evidence in court. They cannot provide rape victims with access to the resources that we donate to developing nations.

These past weeks we have seen crowds in India take to the streets screaming for their government to protect women and bring rapists to justice. We sit silent as our government takes away another avenue for those who have been raped or stalked or assaulted to have equal access to care and justice. This move does not legalize rape. But it sends a clear message: Congress does not care if you are raped.

Let them know you heard their message and now make them listen to yours. Contact your Representative through: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

by Bridget Egan

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