As much as we like to believe we live in a safe country for women, we know this is not the case. Women and girls across the country are subject to rape, abuse, intimidation, and sex trafficking, with the number of victims growing each day.
Progress has been made over the past decades, thanks in part to the Violence Against Women Act. This policy protects women by providing everything from funding for rape crisis centers to increased collaboration with law enforcement to hold perpetrators accountable. VAWA is our country’s promise to women and girls that we will not allow them to be violated and abused.
The Violence Against Women Act is up for a vote in the Senate next week, and Americans from every corner of the country are calling our policymakers to reauthorize this important legislation. Since it was first passed in 1994, VAWA has received strong bipartisan support and shown its effectiveness in making communities safer, healthier, and better stewards of their resources (in the first 6 years since it was introduced, VAWA saved communities $12.6 billion).
VAWA expired in 2011, and has yet to be reauthorized. Last year’s debate in the House of Representatives centered around protections for undocumented immigrants, the LGBT community, and Native Americans, with many policymakers seeking to exclude certain segments of the population from protection.
This can’t happen again. The Violence Against Women Act must be reauthorized, with equal protection for all women. Sojourners, along with hundreds of other national and local organizations, recently signed a letter which reads, in part:
VAWA has unquestionably improved the national response to these terrible crimes. Nonetheless, much work remains to be done to address unmet needs and enhance access to protections and services for all victims. We urge you to follow the lead of VAWA’s chief sponsor and vote for S. 47 and against harmful or non-germane amendment as we all work to build upon VAWA's successes, continue to enhance our nation’s ability to promote an end to this violence, to hold perpetrators accountable and to keep victims and their families safe from future harm.
Let’s work together to support and protect women in the United States and around the world. Call on your senators to pass this important legislation that keeps women across the country from harm.
To support healing for women around the world, consider participating in the One Billion Rising campaign this Valentine’s Day, building a movement of global support and solidarity with those who call for an end to violence against women.
As people of faith, we must work to end the horrible crimes directed at our sisters and create a world where all people enjoy safety, liberty, and justice.
Janelle Tupper is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners.