The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 was intended to support victims of domestic violence legally, financially, and culturally by raising awareness of the issue and strengthening the judicial response to violent crimes against women. Current amendments attempt to limit gun access to abusers, increase funding to rape-prevention programs, and offer eviction protection to victims of domestic abuse. Despite its myriad benefits, Republicans don’t want to reauthorize the bill.
Women, regardless of party, are dangerously close to losing another level of protection from the near-daily reminders that we aren’t safe in this country. The Violence Against Women Act will expire at the end of September, yet not a single Republican lawmaker has signed on to support a reauthorization package with amendments, and only 46 have signed a move to simply reauthorize the bill. Instead, they want to ignore the strengthening amendments on the floor and simply extend the law until Dec. 7 within a stopgap spending bill, which would only delay the actual debate on reauthorizing the act.
The implications of failing to fully reauthorize this bill extend past current and future victims of domestic violence — although, according to the CDC, this category encompasses a staggering one in three U.S. women. Violence against women acts in deeper ways, as it systematically denies women equal participation in society through fear and pseudo-protective measures that continue to push them into the private sphere.
Common warnings about how to “avoid” rape include avoiding being out late alone and remaining in well-lit spaces. But what are women who need to work late and take public transportation supposed to do? Take a chaperone? What about women who face violence in their well-lit homes? There is no real way to avoid violence, especially when politicians tacitly express their tolerance for it. And that is what the failure to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act will symbolize — a return to an era where society considers domestic violence private business and victims must fend for themselves.
The fact that this issue, which has been gradually building in Congress since mid-summer, merits coverage of less than one article per day only emphasizes the apathy towards women’s health and safety this country is condoning. Adding further the contempt shown to Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, makes it impossible to avoid the conclusion that women are facing an assault on our rights to be equal citizens.
Although this advice has been repeated billions of times, it serves as the only uplifting part of this article: Vote out the men — and women — in both parties who are allowing this law to die and who are legislating daily in ways that hurt women. Pressure the University to maintain its Title IX regulations regarding the adjudication of sexual assault cases. Support people who sacrifice their safety and privacy to reveal their stories of sexual and domestic assault. Only by taking action can we maintain the feminist progress of the past hundred years and ensure that those advances are not wrenched away.
Madeleine Marr is a sophomore from Newtown Square, Pa. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.