Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Shaima Alawadi

Violence Against Women and Me

I am the oldest of five children. Four of us are young women of color. And I can’t help but constantly worry about them and their life experiences. When it comes to violence against women, my worry grows. It is said that 1 in 4 women will experience abuse in any of its forms at least once in their life time. That means that one of my sisters, including myself would be a part of this statistic. So far, I am that statistic.

We are Shaima al-Awadi – an Iraqi-American mother beaten to death in a hate crime. This could be any one of us. And when you are a minority in any country, that probability increases. With Shaima’s face and story at the forefront of my mind this week, it would make sense that the current news on VAWA would spark my critical analysis.

What is VAWA?

VAWA is the Violence Against Women’s Act that was implemented during the Clinton Administration in 1994 and is reauthorized every 5 or so years. VAWA was brought about to the United States after many grassroots efforts in the late 80’s and 90’s from organizations and communities that live and work within the Domestic Violence community. These grassroots efforts acknowledged that domestic violence is a public health policy and a human rights concern that should have greater support and be given greater space for awareness. Through this, VAWA was written as federal law under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement act of 1994. By being under the VCCLE Act, it was to enhance investigation and prosecution of violent crimes perpetrated against women, impose automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allow civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted. Basically, VAWA was to be seen as the federal law that would expand efforts to protect women and their families from Domestic Violence with the combined helped of law enforcement and other services by making it a community problem and solution. This has since been inclusive of dating violence and stalking.

Why is VAWA back and big in the media?

Since VAWA is due for reauthorization, it is only natural that the Senate would have to approve of VAWA as it stands or if the committee has revised it. This year, the heads of the committee that are in charge of VAWA have chosen to add certain provisions expanding and adding certain services. These provisions include giving protection to the LGBTQ community and expanding visas and protection to the undocumented community. Usually VAWA holds a unanimous bipartisan vote of approval, but this year with the new provisions, it has gained growing attention due to the partisan vote and possible rejection. Of the Senators to speak on the issues of VAWA, many democrats and one republican have felt the urge to support the provisions to expand VAWA understanding that violence is violence and should not be accepted.

It is said that 85% of DV victims are women and that 1 in 75 men will or have been victims of DV. In the LGBTQ community, it is much more likely for men who have sex with men to be victims of DV then women who have sex with women but lesbians could attract even more violent acts from men trying to “fix them”. In heterosexual relationships the numbers jump in relation to the women who become victims. But the incidence of DV remains much higher for immigrant women, especially those who are undocumented for fear of deportation.

The current dispute on VAWA brings forth a slew of concerns regarding politics and their intentions for our families safety. Republicans have recently been reporting that the provisions on VAWA are a Democratic ploy to bring votes in for the up and coming election by dictating that the GOP party is placing a war on women. This comes after the recent bills presented on the basis of abortion, birth control and health care. But the provisions were created by both a democrat and a republican and of course both of which were men. The GOP are also saying that VAWA has become a concern not because of its provisions, but because the GOP party is trying to envision its functionality in this day and age in America where budget constraints are suffocating.

So what’s next?

Despite our own personal views on the LGBTQ community and Immigration and the claims and intentions perpetrated by our political parties, it can be concluded that domestic violence is an entity that holds no boundaries on creed, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. That all persons who have been abused deserve the support and helped needed to make their lives safer and that it is our duty as people and particularly as women to research VAWA and help push for possible approval of VAWA in the Senate. It is a reminder to our youth that we are all human; that violence is not about being American, it’s about being a part of everybody. What experiences would we be giving our youth if we allowed violence to be the base of it for any of their lives? I feel strongly, that if we want to stop the cycle of violence that surrounds women and girls, we must also bring awareness and support to everyone who experiences violence to create a chain reaction of positive and healthy living. Furthermore it is even more crucial that we ask our women Senators and politicians to become more involved when legislation is being created for women. Who knows better about women’s rights and struggles then ourselves?

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