Why is the U.S. Senate Playing Politics with Violence Against Women?

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Why is the U.S. Senate Playing Politics with Violence Against Women?

by Gloria Lau
Chief Executive Officer, YWCA USA

Gloria Lau
Gloria Lau

As an organization dedicated to improving the lives of all women and as the largest provider of battered women’s shelters and domestic violence services in the U.S., the YWCA is deeply disheartened by the increasing politicization of women’s health and safety by our elected officials.  As the Senate considers the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) this week, instead of enhancing programs to assist all women seeking safety from violence, some members of Congress are putting the lives of thousands of women at risk.

YWCA infographic: Why We Need the Violence Against Women Act
Why We Need the Violence Against Women Act. Click to enlarge.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 woman is raped or sexually assaulted in the U.S. every 24 seconds.  So, if it takes you about a minute to read this blog post, 3 women will have become victims during that time.

As you can see from the accompanying graphic, it is estimated that 1 in 4 U.S. women will experience domestic violence.  More than 3 women are murdered by their partners in the United States every day.  The CDC estimates that 1.3 million women reported being raped or sexually assaulted in 2009, with women ages 16 to 24 experiencing the highest rates per capita of intimate partner violence.  One in 6 women will be the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault in her lifetime and approximately 15 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year.

For 17 years, VAWA has garnered widespread bipartisan support by providing a national response to address these high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence impacting women across the U.S.  In the past, each reauthorization of VAWA has reinforced our nation’s commitment to reducing violence against women by extending programs and services based on women’s needs nationwide.  It is a sad and sobering commentary that each reauthorization has identified new groups of women who are the victims of violence. The current VAWA reauthorization before Congress is no different.

YWCA info graphic: ALL WOMEN Need the Violence Against Women Act
ALL WOMEN Need the Violence Against Women Act. Click to enlarge.

In this reauthorization round, Native American, LGBTQ and immigrant women have been identified for much-needed protection.  As the chart here shows, 34 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped and 39 percent will be subjected to domestic violence in their lifetimes; on some reservations, Native women are murdered at more than ten times the national average.  25-35 percent of LGBTQ people experience domestic violence.  Immigrant women need legal protections to prevent abusers from using immigration status as a tool for abuse.  Nearly 75 percent of abused immigrant women reported that their spouses had never filed immigration applications for them even though they were eligible for legal status.  Having legal immigration status is crucial to a victim feeling safe enough to seek help.

Some in the U.S. Senate would deny provisions in VAWA to help these three groups and are holding passage of VAWA reauthorization hostage as a result. Yet, as these statistics show, violence against women knows no bounds. It is blind to age, economic status, and place as well as to sexual orientation, immigrant status, or race.  YWCAs in communities all across this country bear sad witness to this reality because women from all walks of life come through our doors seeking safe haven and help. And their numbers are increasing.

Violence against women knows no party line. The YWCA strongly supports the reauthorization of VAWA for all women.

Related Resources:

YWCA USA is a partner in HERvotes, a coalition of leading women’s organizations focused on mobilizing women voters in 2012 around preserving women’s Health and Economic Rights (HERrights.) This post is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

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