Youth Perspective on the Importance of VAWA!

By James Meng and the Monsoon Violence Prevention Team

Gender-based violence has long been institutionalized within our society. From domestic violence and sexual assault to stalking and cyber threats, these problems exist in all communities. Now is the most important time to address these issues. 1 in 3 girls is a victim to physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. Less than half of domestic violence cases are ever reported, and only 1 out of every 3 rapes is reported. And out of every 1,000 rapes that do get reported, 994 rapists walk free, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and Bureau of Justice Statistics. Our society is plagued by different violences against women.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first passed in 1994 in recognition of the growing issue of domestic violence and sexual assault. It supported the efforts of domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and various other community organizations. It has inspired several laws at the local, state, and national level; a testament to its success and influence.

VAWA has been reauthorized several times and each reauthorization has included steps forward for young survivors. VAWA 2000 added to the original act by including dating violence and stalking in its considerations. VAWA 2005 developed program funding and created provisions for immigrants, children, and teenagers. VAWA 2013 involved new provisions for Native Americans and the LGBTQ community, while giving colleges more tools to address dating violence and sexual assault. VAWA has been incredibly effective when in action, as it has decreased intimate partner violence by over 60% since 1994 according the the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

However, the 2018 reauthorization has been unable to move forward. VAWA was set to  expire September 30, 2018 before it was extended for three months until December 7, 2018. We cannot sit idle now, though, because if VAWA is not extended before that deadline, it will cut government funding to violence prevention programs and other support services. VAWA’s 2018 reauthorization, originally proposed by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee in late July, would include provisions to help survivors stay in stable housing situations and increase investment in sexual violence prevention programs.

Sexual violence happens in all communities. Young women, low-income women, and some minorities are particularly targeted, but such violence is an issue that extends to everybody and that all should concern themselves with. For VAWA to continue, it must be renewed. You can be an activist and call your representative urging them for a long-term, improved VAWA, if they are not already a cosponsor of this reauthorization.

Survivors cannot wait for lifesaving responses to sexual assault and communities need prevention programs. Support and advocate for VAWA reauthorization to protect the futures of those affected by sexual violence, and to help combat gender-based violence in all communities.

This document was supported by a grant by RALIANCE, a collaborative initiative to end sexual violence in one generation, made possible through a commitment from the National Football League (NFL).  Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NFL.