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Violence Against Women Act Needs Your Voice Now!

March 20, 2012

Take Action: Thanks to all of your advocacy efforts, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (VAWA - S.1925) appears to be moving again. There is a good chance that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may bring VAWA to a floor vote soon. Let's get VAWA a few more co-sponsors to make sure it sails through the Senate! Please call AND email your senators and urge them to co-sponsor, if they are not already on the bill, and to support a "clean" VAWA, with no harmful amendments. Republican senators who have joined as co-sponsors also need positive reinforcement (see list below). Use our formatted message or write one of your own, but please contact your senators ASAP.

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BACKGROUND:

VAWA is Successful - The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 (S. 1925), sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Michael D. Crapo (R-Ida.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) maintains core services of providing protection and support to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. VAWA programs are administered by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services. Through grants and direct services, resources are provided to law enforcement, prosecutors and judges that enable them to hold offenders accountable while protecting survivors and their families. VAWA is one of the most successful federal laws ever adopted: the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 63 percent since the law's original passage in 1994 and many tens of billions of dollars in net averted social costs have been realized.

Unmet Needs Addressed - More than two years of research and review by activists and program administrators has produced the current reauthorization bill. Programs have been streamlined so that VAWA services are cost-effective, while holding the overall funding level steady. The bill emphasizes transparency and accountability in program administration to assure that survivors of violence are receiving needed services such as shelter, counseling, legal services, medical care, or employment assistance. Advocates assessed where services are currently needed but not being met and included additional provisions to assure help for certain under-served populations.

Rural Communities, Housing Aid Included - S. 1925 addresses the special barriers faced by victims in rural communities, elderly victims, and those with disabilities. The current bill strengthens housing protections for victims by applying existing housing protections to nine additional federal housing programs.

Protecting Immigrant Women from Violence - VAWA would increase the availability of support to abused immigrant women by allowing them to apply for legal immigration status for themselves and their children without the knowledge or permission of their abuser. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, about 60 percent of married and 50 percent of unmarried immigrant women have experienced physical or sexual abuse.

LGBTQ Services Improved - The bill would also improve funding and services for LGBTQ victims and eliminate discrimination. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 85 percent of service providers have worked with domestic violence victims who have been denied service on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Indian Country Jurisdiction Clarified - VAWA 2011 improves responses to the high rate of violence against women in tribal communities by strengthening concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction over perpetrators who assault Indian spouses and dating partners in Indian country. The tribal provisions in Section 904 of VAWA are critical to ensure the safety of Native women and their access to safety and equal justice. (Senators from Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, Idaho and Nebraska need to hear that message.)

Oppose Harmful Amendments - We know that amendments to S. 1925 will be offered during floor debate and we want to urge senators to support a "clean" bill, with no harmful amendments. Rumors are circulating that conservative senators will not only vote against cloture (to prevent a final vote on VAWA), but may offer amendments that promote wider availability of guns, restore gun ownership rights to individuals formerly denied gun possession because of a DV conviction, delete provisions in S. 1925 relating to visas for immigrant victims of violence and banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, race or ethnicity. Please urge your senators to oppose such amendments and to support a "clean" S. 1925.

Senators Who Need to Hear From You - Republicans on the bill need your positive reinforcement: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Paul Kirk (Ill.), Mike Crapo (Ida.), Scott Brown (Mass.) and both Maine Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Republican senators that should be asked to sign on as co-sponsors: Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Rob Portman (Oh.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), among others. Please call them and tell them you appreciate their support of such an important bill that will save lives and help families put their lives back together following domestic violence.

To see if your senators are co-sponsors go to http://4vawa.org/pages/vawa-senate-supporters; the switchboard for Congress is 202-224 3121 and ask for your senator's office by name. For additional information on the legislation, go to http://4vawa.org/pages/mobilize-with-the-vawa-tool-kit-82885 and details about tribal provisions can be found at http://4vawa.org/pages/vawa-fact-sheets

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