Violence Against Women Act
Violence against women continues to be a grave epidemic in countries around the globe, touching the lives of women and girls across the United States and in every nation. Violence in the home and community devastates the lives of millions of women each year. According to the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, violence against women is defined as "any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
Violence Against Women in the United States
Critical legislation related to serving and protecting victims of domestic violence includes the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law in August of 1994 as a part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (PL-103-322).
VAWA has the following goals:
- Enhancing judicial and law enforcement tools to combat violence against women
- Improving services for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking
- Services, protection, and justice for young victims of violence
- Strengthening America’s families by preventing violence
- Strengthening the healthcare system’s response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking
- Housing opportunities and safety for battered women and children
- Providing economic security for victims of violence
- Protection of battered and trafficked immigrants
VAWA was reauthorized by Congress in 2000, and again in October 2005, when it passed the Senate unanimously. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 5, 2006. The latest version for the first time also recognizes male victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. VAWA will be up for reauthorization in 2010.
Since VAWA was first passed into law in 1994, reporting of domestic violence has increased by 51 percent, the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 61 percent, and the number of women killed by an intimate partner has decreased 26 percent. Furthermore, research estimates that VAWA saved nearly $14.8 billion dollars in net averted social costs in its first six years.
Yet domestic violence remains a pervasive threat to women, children, families, and communities throughout the nation. Despite the great strides that have been made in combating domestic violence due to VAWA, in 2006 the National Domestic Violence Hotline received 215,244 calls—but 29,021 of those calls went unanswered due to lack of resources.
Essential domestic violence programs currently in effect and crucial new programs that are part of the reauthorization are dependant on receiving full funding in FY 2008 to ensure that lives are saved and that violence is prevented in our communities. The President's Budget Request for FY 2008 proposes funding for VAWA programs at $421.6 million, which is $406.4 million less than authorized by Congress in 2006. Also, the budget plan requests Congress to consolidate all Criminal Justice Services programs and funding into one competitive block grant. This would create inefficiencies and competitions for already stretched funds, and create a large administrative burden on the Office on Violence Against Women.
Furthermore, domestic violence emergency programs are proposed to be funded at $125 million, $50 million less than authorized, making 2008 the sixth year in a row that this emergency shelter program will be under-funded.
Congress has the responsibility to fully fund VAWA for each year of its authorization. VAWA programs have proven to be vital in addressing the epidemic of violence against women, and are dependent on the funding.
Gender Based Violence Against Women Internationally
Internationally, one out of three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or abused during her lifetime, according to Amnesty International. Across the globe, millions of women are raped by partners, relatives, friends and strangers, by employers and colleagues, and by soldiers and members of armed groups. According the World Health Organization, 70 percent of female murder victims are killed by their male partners.
Throughout the world, violence touches women in multiple ways. Violence in the family includes battering by intimate partners, fathers or brothers, sexual abuse of female children and young women in the household by family members, marital rape, and female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women. Beyond the confines of the home, women face violence in their communities including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and assault at work, in educational institutions, and elsewhere. Women live in fear of trafficking, forced prostitution, rape, and other abuses by armed groups.
Internationally, women often have inadequate laws protecting them from this violence. Women may face even more abuse by states and governments, including rape by government forces during armed conflict, violence by officials against refugee women, and acts of violence committed or condoned by police, prison guards, soldiers, border guards, and immigration officials.
For the lives of women everywhere, the time to act is now! As a leader in human rights, the United States has a responsibility to help women and girls who live in fear of abuse throughout the world. The U.S. House and Senate are set to soon introduce the International Violence Against Women Act. I-VAWA was drafted in consultation with more than 150 groups, including U.S. NGO’s and 40 women’s groups across the globe. I-VAWA will offer resources to support best practices against violence aimed at women and girls. It will incorporate training, protection, and services across a range of situations.
I-VAWA focuses on:
- Integrating efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls as part of U.S. foreign assistance programs comprehensively including health, education, economic growth, legal reform, humanitarian assistance, and foreign security force training.
- Supporting overseas non-governmental and community-based organizations working to end violence against women and girls.
- Creating more U.S. leadership and accountability to address violence against women and girls and making prevention of violence against women and girls a greater U.S. diplomatic priority.
GFWC's Call to Action
- Pass this alert on to your fellow clubwomen, your friends, your family, and your community.
- Share the details on violence against women and what it means for the global community.
- Inform local newspapers, radio stations, and local television news of the issue. Write a letter to the editor to raise awareness of violence against women and encourage support of VAWA.
- Work with your club members to create an action toolkit; use Amnesty International's toolkit as a model.
- Sign the pledge in support of I-VAWA and to help make violence against women a priority in the United States.
- Contact Congress immediately and let them know that you support full funding of the Violence Against Women Act and the International Violence Against Women Act, as well as all programs for victims of gender-based violence this year and every year of the authorization. Encourage your elected official to sign on as cosponsors of the vital piece of legislation, to ensure the safety of millions of women and girls around the world.
- Find out where your lawmakers stand, and contact them directly.You can find your lawmakers contact information online at the Senate and House of Representatives websites.
No matter how you choose to act in supporting VAWA and I-VAWA, remember to report your activities to GFWC