The Feminist Majority celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act with determination to strengthen efforts to reduce gender-based violence and empower survivors to seek and obtain justice.
The Feminist Majority and its leader, Eleanor Smeal, played a very active role in the passage of VAWA in 1994 and in each subsequent fight for reauthorization, including the 2013 reauthorization which broadened protections for Native American women, LGBT individuals, immigrants, and students. Since its inception, VAWA has not only reduced violence against women, but it has represented an ongoing call to change the culture of gender-based violence.
“Then-Senator Joe Biden’s leadership was indispensable in the passage of VAWA,” reflected Eleanor Smeal. “Today, his leadership as Vice President, and the leadership of President Barack Obama are uniquely important in this fight.”
“You must change public policy and laws to change culture. Over the last 20 years, the Violence Against Women Act has done just that,” continued Smeal. “VAWA has established a national standard in the fight to reduce sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. VAWA literally saved women’s lives. The number of women killed by intimate partner violence decreased by 26 percent between 1993 and 2010. “
“But our work is far from over,” Smeal continued. “Women still face obstacles to reporting violence. Both women in the military and women on college campuses are fighting for fair and independent treatment when they courageously report sexual assault. The rate of sexual assault on campuses nationwide, where 1 in 5 women are assaulted, and in the military, where 1 in 3 women are assaulted is totally unacceptable.”
“The need for community policing, discrimination against women and people of color in police hiring, promotion, and retention, and the continuing problem of too many police officers themselves engaging in domestic violence discourages many women from ever reporting violence. What’s more, too many women are being charged equally with their batterer for assault,” said Smeal.
“Most importantly,“ concluded Smeal, “we need to increase funding for VAWA and survivor services like emergency housing, counseling, and legal assistance.”
“The work continues. But VAWA has laid the necessary groundwork for us to win.”###