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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on January 10th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 44 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 44

Justice for all

Passing the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act should be a partisan issue

BY JENNIFER MERCHANT

Following the holiday scramble to get the perfect gift, prepare festive desserts, and gather with family and friends in celebration, the fiscal cliff and all of the bureaucratic talk has ended—for now. It seemed like every other television channel was quoting Speaker Boehner’s or President Obama’s latest announcement regarding their efforts to reach an agreement.

Debates over tax cuts or tax increases as well as increased revenue and decreased spending have always been a partisan issue, which clearly separates the Democrats from the Republicans, drawing a clear line in the sand with donkeys on one side and elephants on the other. However, there is a bill that has been thrown into the hogwash of partisanship and is now up for debate. The 112th congress did not come to an agreement on the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWRA).

The passage of VAWRA is vital to domestic violence victims and the agencies that serve them. The bill extends much-needed mental health programs and advocacy as well as grant funding for shelters and transitional housing for domestic violence victims.

Since its inception in 1994, the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) has gathered bipartisan cooperation to quickly move the bill through congress so even more protections for domestic violence victims are accessible and available. At the time VAWA was first passed into law, the domestic violence statistics in the United States were staggering, revealing a female rape occurring every six seconds. Following the enactment, domestic violence incidents dropped by 67 percent in the United States. In addition, advocacy and intervention programs have lowered the rates of domestic violence incidents, thereby lowering societal costs by nearly $14 million.

Without a doubt, the VAWA has been successful in meeting its goals to prevent domestic violence occurrences as well as to protect domestic violence victims. So why has the VAWRA become such a partisan issue? The issue does not lie with the need to offer programs and services to domestic violence victims. The issue lies with whom, exactly, the bill should protect.

The Senate Bill 1925 was inclusive of protections to immigrant and Native American domestic violence victims whose issues are compounded by their lack of citizenship and sovereign membership, making them especially vulnerable to abuse. Contrastingly, the House passed a more divisive bill, H.R. 4970, which would place restrictions on immigrants’ access to temporary visas for protection in the United States and tribal jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators.

Following a year involving several violent incidents of shootings and senseless murders, it is imperative the 113th Congress work together to address the issues of violence in the United States. Therefore, it is crucial that congress pass bills, such as VAWRA, that lessen the incidents of violence and protect victims vulnerable to violence. Providing services to all victims of domestic violence is a bipartisan issue and should top the list of congressional priorities. Congress needs to put aside all partisanship squabbles and initiate a full-fledged effort to address the issue of violence in the United States through the passage of the VAWRA.

Jennifer Merchant is a Santa Maria resident and graduate student at the University of Southern California in the School of Social Work. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@santamariasun.com.