President Obama will sign the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law today. The ceremony will take place at Interior Department.
After over 500 days without congressional reauthorization, the House approved an inclusive, bipartisan VAWA as passed by the Senate on February 28. The reauthorization includes expanded protections for students, LGBT individuals, immigrants, and Native Americans. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority, said “The House passed by a wide margin (286-138) the strong, bipartisan Senate version of VAWA which was supported by the Feminist Majority and scores of women’s rights, civil rights, labor, and domestic violence and sexual assault groups and organizations. … Women’s groups and their allies acted as one and created a massive grassroots lobbying campaign to pass a strong VAWA despite the Republican House leadership opposition. We cannot forget that 138 Republicans and no Democrats voted against final passage of the real VAWA. Nor can we forget those that voted to roll back full protections of VAWA for college students, immigrants, the LGBT community, and Native Americans as well as to weaken of the Office of Violence Against Women.”
With VAWA just hours away from being signed into law, the Justice Department has released statistics that violence against women decreased by more than 60% from 1994, when VAWA was first enacted, to 2005. Figures remain unchanged since 2005. Smeal told reporters that this in large part is a result of VAWA and proves why it is necessary. Smeal said that now “everybody knows that rape and sexual assault are crimes and will be treated as such.”
“We have a ways to go,” she added. “It is clear there is still too much violence and too many are fearful to report it.”