Lifting our Voices to Ensure the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Posted on 11/14/2012 @ 09:39 AM

By: Rosie Hidalgo, J.D.

The voices of advocates and community leaders have made a big difference this year in working hard to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but the work is not done. VAWA expired in 2011. Congress has been deadlocked with different versions of VAWA reauthorization bills that passed the House and the Senate in 2012, but has failed to secure the passage of a final VAWA bill that protects all victims. Additionally, the House VAWA bill (HR4970) proposes changes that for the first time in VAWA’s history would erode rather than strengthen protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and would undermine victim safety. More than ever, we need to speak out to let Congress know that our nation’s commitment to ending domestic violence and sexual assault cannot falter. Congress must work in a bipartisan fashion during the final weeks of this term to finalize a VAWA bill that will protect all victims and that does not roll back critical protections for immigrant survivors.

On November 8th, hundreds of advocates and community leaders across the country participated on a national call to discuss the importance of getting VAWA across the finish line during this term of Congress. Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, stated that the reauthorization of VAWA is a high priority of this Administration during the “lame duck” session when Congress reconvenes this week. However, she reminded participants that we all need to make our voices heard so that Congress does its part.

Today, Wednesday, November 14th will be a National Day of Action for VAWA, organized by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, in which we ask community members across the nation to reach out to their members of Congress (Democrats and Republicans alike) to let them know they must approve a final VAWA bill. It is urgent to convey to members of Congress that VAWA must protect all victims and must not roll back current protections for immigrant victims. While the National Day of Action begins November 14th, we should continue to spread the word and urge people to speak out until Congress gets the job done.

If you would like more information about VAWA, and to access additional information about how to contact your member of Congress, visit the policy section of Casa de Esperanza’s website for our national initiative, the National Latino Network for Healthy Families and Communities, at: http://www.nationallatinonetwork.org/policy-and-action/action-alerts/vawa You can also visit www.4vawa.org to learn more about how you can participate in the PassVAWA2012 Social Media Campaign.

I was honored last month, during a Domestic Violence Month awareness event in Chicago, to share the podium with two immigrant women, survivors of domestic violence, who shared their stories of how VAWA’s immigration remedies (the VAWA Self-petition and U visa) were critical to helping them come out of the shadows to seek safety and obtain the help they needed to rebuild their lives free from violence. In this event, organized by Mujeres Latinas en Acción, over 400 Latina women came together for a Women’s Leadership Conference. During that event Casa de Esperanza co-hosted a press conference focused on the importance of VAWA and the need for Congress to come together to finalize the passage of a comprehensive VAWA bill. We were also honored to have Dolores Huerta keynote the event and speak out at the press conference about the importance of VAWA. As a national civil rights leader with an amazing legacy of work over the past four decades fighting for social justice, Dolores Huerta spoke about how important it is in our communities to improve efforts to prevent and end domestic violence and for Congress to ensure that VAWA protects all victims, particularly vulnerable immigrant victims. You can watch a video of the press conference at this link.

We hope you will be able to join efforts to raise our voices to tell Congress to do the right thing… and to do it now. VAWA’s reauthorization has to be about going forward in improving our nation’s response to violence against women – it cannot go backwards. The next step is for Congress to avoid further delays and to agree on a final bipartisan version of VAWA that continues to advance VAWA protections for all victims and does not roll back current protections and undermine safety for vulnerable immigrant victims and their children.

Rosie Hidalgo, J.D., is the Director of Public Policy for Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, a national organization dedicated to mobilizing Latinas and Latin@ communities to end domestic violence. Casa de Esperanza serves on the Steering Committee of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. To learn more about Casa de Esperanza, visit www.casadeesperanza.org.

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