I want to express my concern regarding the dissent over the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and urge you to support this important piece of legislation. Since its inception in 1994, VAWA funded programs and services have positively impacted the lives of many individuals, dramatically reduced the rates of intimate partner homicide, and provided training to those working with victims so that reporting has become safer. There is much left to do; our culture still focuses on victim blaming. Victims do not feel safe coming forward due to stigma and social pressure to remain silent, and when they do come forward we often fail them as a society. We are still becoming aware of the extent of interpersonal violence in a variety of social sectors.
The reauthorization of VAWA (S.1925) is more inclusive in scope, increasing provision of services to LGBTQ, undocumented individuals, and Native American women while still maintaining broad services for the populations identified in the initial legislation. Despite these expansions in populations served by VAWA there are $166M in proposed reductions. The inclusion of specific populations is supported by what we know from research about who is at risk for victimization, as well as which populations experience the greatest barriers to seeking help. This is a humanist issue not a political position on what constitutes a family or who belongs where. No one deserves to experience violence. The fewer barriers we create between a victim and help, the sooner they can begin to rebuild effectively.
Here we have a proposal that expends some services, streamlines others, and casts a wider net to help reduce interpersonal violence in ways that illustrate responsible consideration of the demographics of those needing services. Please support the reauthorization of VAWA, even if you don’t agree with an inclusive definition of family or are upset that abusers bring their partners into this country illegally. Please allow yourself to explore this from a more humanist perspective and support movement towards a cultural norm of interpersonal non-violence regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, or any other factor. Victims of violence do not choose to be victims any more than they choose their race or sex.
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