There is a reason why VAWA has always been supported by Democrats and Republicans. It is first and foremost crime fighting legislation. Both S. 1925 and H.R. 4970 contain strong new provisions to address the criminal justice response to sexual assault providing tools and resources to law enforcement and prosecutors to make our communities safer. Both bills have provisions to strengthen the nation’s response to domestic violence homicides.
The Senate bill is stronger—it is more bipartisan, it protects more victims, and it is informed by the input of thousands of advocates working together over the past three years by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women. But there are a number of strong provisions with which both sides agree.
On June 18, 2007, ten armed youths between the ages of 14 and 18 forced themselves into a Florida woman's public housing apartment where they repeatedly raped her and poured household chemicals into her son’s eyes and over her body. This victim was not protected by VAWA but would be under the new provisions in VAWA legislation passed by both the Senate and House.
Research shows that rape prosecution has not improved over the past 20 years so both the House and Senate versions of VAWA invest expanded resources in sexual assault prosecutors, detectives, nurse examiners and response teams making it more likely that rapists like the Tear Drop Rapist will be put away and other undetected rapists will be found through rape kit analysis.
Victims and communities need the services and prevention programs authorized in VAWA. Advocates who work long hours for little pay at shoestring non-profits across the nation need resources to help victims and reach all the members of their communities.
As advocates, we beg the House and Senate leaders from both parties to finalize VAWA. That final bill must include provisions to protect the most vulnerable victims and cannot contain any rollbacks to current law. Let’s get VAWA done now for all victims.
Poore is vice presdient of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence in Washington, DC.