Preventing violence isn’t partisan: Time to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act
© Greg Nash

The numbers are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 6 men have been victims of contact sexual violence at some point in their lives. It’s estimated that nearly 23 million women and 1.6 million men have been the victims of rape or attempted rape. To prevent and combat the intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking affecting too many lives, Congress has authorized and funded the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for nearly three decades.

The programs supported through VAWA combine criminal justice, prevention, training and support resources to address those in crisis and help prevent violence in our communities. But in just a matter of weeks - and less than seven legislative days - authorization for these critical programs nationwide will expire unless Washington acts. That’s why members of the Republican Main Street Caucus are leading the effort in Congress to reauthorize the key programs and resources in this critical law before it’s too late.

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First signed into law in 1994, the law passed both chambers of Congress with broad bipartisan support. It was the first federal legislation to recognize domestic violence as a serious crime. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, VAWA encouraged “community-coordinated responses that brought together, for the first time, the criminal justice system, the social services system, and private nonprofit organizations responding to domestic violence and sexual assault.”

In encouraging this coordination, it also recognized and supported the thousands of shelters and organizations across the country that provide resources, protection and assistance to those in crisis. The programs authorized under this groundbreaking law increase prevention efforts and expand education and awareness surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault. They also provide critical community training programs for those responding to crisis calls or reports.

Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA has been reauthorized on a bipartisan basis three times. But for too long, Washington’s bad habit of running out the clock when it comes to critical deadlines has provided unnecessary uncertainty and confusion. Congress has a responsibility to govern effectively, not crisis to crisis. That’s why last week more than 40 members of the Republican Main Street Partnership signed a letter to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMeghan McCain calls Russian attacks against her father the 'highest compliment' to her family Atheist group argues in court for prayer rights on House floor Small-dollar donations explode in the Trump era MORE (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMaxine Waters gets company in new GOP line of attack The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — GOP faces ‘green wave’ in final stretch to the midterms Conservatives fear Trump will cut immigration deal MORE (R-Calif.) urging them to advance a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA before it’s too late. Adding to this effort are Main Street members Reps. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikRyan signals support for sanctions if Saudis killed Khashoggi Ryan on Trump’s ‘Horseface’ tweet: There’s no place for that type of language Cuomo: Driver in deadly limo crash did not have proper license MORE (R-N.Y.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickGroup begins 'Nuns on the Bus' tour to protest Trump tax law ahead of midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Historic vote on Kavanaugh to come amid protests, anger Dems announce third-quarter fundraising bonanza MORE (R-Pa.) and John FasoJohn James FasoDemocratic candidate denounces attack ads on rap career Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel Midterms in 2018 become most expensive in history MORE (R-N.Y.), who recently introduced the Violence Against Women Extension Act, a six-month extension of VAWA’s expiring programs.

Ensuring that our nation’s crisis hotlines and community prevention programs remain adequately funded and accessible for those in need of help should not be a partisan issue. “Programs authorized and funded under VAWA work to protect girls, boys, men, and women from these terrible crimes,” the members wrote. There’s no excuse for members on either side of the aisle to leave VAWA - and those in needs of its protection and help - on the sidelines.

Sarah Chamberlain is the President and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook @MainStreetSarah.