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 RyanThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden MORE (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySteve King asks for Congressional Record correction over white supremacist quote Steve King urges supporters to pray for his committee assignments to be restored: report Congress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse 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 StefanikGOP announces members who will serve on House intel panel Bipartisan House group introduces bills to stall Syria, South Korea troop withdrawals House votes on 10th bill to reopen government MORE (R-N.Y.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDems escalate gun fight a year after Parkland House panel advances bill to expand background checks for gun sales Overnight Energy: Court rules for Trump in environmental case over border wall | House bill would stop Alaska refuge drilling | Ads target Dems over Green New Deal MORE (R-Pa.) and John FasoJohn James FasoGOP House super PAC targets two freshman Dems with new ads Tax law failed to save GOP majority New York New Members 2019 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.