With a global population nearing 8,000,000,000 people, approximately 2,362,489,747 women will be brutalized by someone who is meant to care for them.

by Susan E. Stutz

Illustration against domestic violenceIllustration against domestic violence

Illustration. BIRN/Igor Vujicic.

Since time began, women and their bodies have been viewed as chattel to be used and abused by men. Seen as being worth no more than the sum of our parts, our bodies have been made to be a violent playground for partners who use fists to pummel us into submission, punish us for unspoken wrongs, or to vent their frustration over the day's injustices.

According to the WHO, one in every three women around the world will be physically, sexually, or emotionally assaulted by an intimate partner. Out of a global population of almost 8,000,000,000 people, that equates to 2,362,489,747 women who will be brutalized by someone who is meant to care for them. Chances are that either your mother, sister, or female partner will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives. And, this statistic is prior to the world closing its doors for a year during a global pandemic. Already an underreported crime, living in a pandemic, where people have been forced to remain indoors for more than a year, has hidden this crime even more than usual as victims are stuck inside with their abuser with no relief valve in sight.

Allowed to lapse during the prior administration, the Violence Against Women Act was enacted in 1994 when President Biden was a Senator from Delaware and sponsored its original passage. The Act created the Office on Violence Against Women with a 2021 budget of almost $500,000,000. These funds are used to support state and local agencies, programs, and nonprofits whose aim is to end domestic violence. Following enactment, incidents of intimate partner violence against women decreased by 53% between 1993 and 2008. That is no small impact and shows how vitally important the Act is to women across the country.

Requiring reauthorization every five years, the Act is once more up for a vote by Congress. The House voted in the affirmative on March 17th despite a “No” vote by 172 of its Republican members. The Act now resides in the Senate where it is expected to face opposition by the GOP because of the gun control terms that are included in the 2021 version. But, truth be told, your right to own a gun should never override, or be more important, than my right to be physically safe.

Over the last 25 years, the Act has evolved to address a changing landscape. Here are some of the key additions to the Act for 2021:

  • Closes the “boyfriend loophole” for firearms purchases: The bill would bar anyone convicted of stalking or domestic abuse from being able to purchase a firearm. At the moment, this restriction only applies to partners who are married, cohabitating, or have children with the victim.
  • Increases accountability for incidents on tribal lands: Currently, Native American tribes don’t have jurisdiction to prosecute certain violent acts against women by non-tribal members including sexual assault, limiting the legal accountability of some offenders. This bill would change that.
  • Additional funding for culturally specific services: The legislation includes $40 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to specifically tailor programs to the needs of communities of color, including improving language access.
  • More funding for the Rape Prevention & Education Program: There’s a boost in funding to efforts aimed at preventing sexual assault, including grants that go to states and community-based initiatives. The reauthorization would designate $110 million per fiscal year for these programs.

What You Can Do

The reality is that we all know someone whose life has been impacted by violence. And, when that violence is visited upon you by a loved one, the emotional pain increases exponentially. It is the job of the Act to protect us. Period.

Send vawa to 50409, and join others in signing a petition addressed to the Senate urging your legislator to protect the women in hers or his life by voting to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Or to write a letter of your own, text senateContact your senators in the U.S. Senate to 50409 and remind your legislator that they too have women in their life who have been abused and the Act is meant to protect them as well.

If you are, or someone you know is, a victim of abuse, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800.799.SAFE, is there to help you.


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