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Jami Davis: Support the Violence Against Women Act

Posted: December 26, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 26, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Unfortunately, with the impending “fiscal cliff” disaster taking front and center on the national media stage, fleeting attention has been paid to the imminent doom of a groundbreaking bipartisan piece of legislation intended to protect victims of intimate partner violence.

The 1994 Violence Against Women Act provided victims, victim services providers and those who can enforce tougher regulations with the vital resources necessary to combat this insidious social problem. Since 1994, VAWA has been reauthorized twice in both 2000 and 2005 with little fanfare due to the bipartisan effort to protect victims of violence in our nation.

VAWA legislation can now be described as collateral damage of the stalemated, lame duck Congressional session. Despite the cause that would seem to stretch across any party aisle, Congress has turned this once party-free issue into another battleground for power. It is deplorable to me that the numerous victims of violence in our nation are paying the cost for the incompetence of our leaders.

If VAWA legislation is not reauthorized, it affects us all. Every one of us knows someone affected by violence or some of us may even be affected by violence ourselves. Unfortunately, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, intimate partner violence knows no bounds of race, gender, socioeconomic status or any determinate we falsely believe protects us.

One in every four women will experience violence in their lifetime, which translated turns into an epidemic of violence. Look at your street. Count every fourth house. Look around the table when you are gathered with friends. Count every fourth female friend. Is this a reality we are all content to live with?

The National Network to End Domestic Violence indicates that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime and one in every six will experience an attempted or completed rape. These are figures that can disgust anyone, and should. Having provided services to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and knowing first-hand the horrific effects these acts of violence have on individuals, families and communities, it is imperative that everyone be cognizant of the atrocities going on all around us.

However, more frightening still is the fact that Congress is perpetuating this issue by not actively and responsively taking action to make sure VAWA legislation stays active and in tact.

The inaction on the part of our elected officials says a lot about who we are as a nation. Not providing basic provisions for those affected by violence communicates the nation’s priorities loud and clear: victims of violence are not on the top of the list.

Fortunately there has been a solution that has been helping mitigate the alarming rates of violence in the United States: VAWA legislation. Violence Against Women Act has made important improvements in the criminal justice response, availability of victim’s services, and created positive changes that can be seen in the reduced rates of violence in the United States (“Renew the Violence Against Women Act – now!” Huffington Post, Dec. 12).

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report Data between 1993 and 2010, the annual incidence of intimate partner violence dropped by 67 percent. More importantly even is what Susan Carbon, Director of the United States Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, refers to as a paradigm shift in how the issue of violence against women is addressed in the U.S. as a result of VAWA.

If we are not all working to end the cycle of violence that unjustly plagues our society, we a perpetuating this insidious violence at the cost of the safety of those around us and ourselves as well.

Speak up. Stand up. Let your elected officials know that VAWA is a priority for us all.

Jami Davis is a Newhall resident.


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