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 RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign MORE (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil 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 StefanikNumber of GOP women in House could fall to World War II levels, Republican CEO says GOP lacks good funding mechanism for women candidates, says Republican CEO Pelosi calls on Ryan to bring long-term Violence Against Women Act to floor MORE (R-N.Y.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickSinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests Congress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms MORE (R-Pa.) and John FasoJohn James Faso'Law & Order: SVU' star wins court case, gets on ballot in NY congressional district Preventing violence isn’t partisan: Time to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act Five things to watch for in New York primaries 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.