The V Word

Advocating to end sexual and domestic violence


February 2013

Good News: VAWA and the Safer Act passed today.

Finally, all the work and advocacy for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the SAFER Act came to fruition as both bills passed the House today.  Both are now heading to the President to be signed into law.  Thanks to the many advocates around the nation who poured in their support through twitter, emails, phone calls, blogging, letters and visits to their representatives to send the message to pass these bills for the increased protection of victims of sexual and domestic violence.  It has been a long road getting VAWA reauthorized and the SAFER ACT passed. 

VAWA will extend protections to victims of violence and add new protections more specifically to LGBTQ victims, tribal victims and undocumented victims.  These provisions, although really a non-political issue and really ought to be nonpartisan, ended up in a partisan split and were hard fought to be passed.  VAWA was introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID).  It passed the Senate earlier this month but struggled with the House Republicans. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) was lead sponsor of the House bill. It renews dozens of anti-sexual violence and domestic violence programs, including funding for local services and training for law enforcement.  

The SAFER ACT will set in place provisions to eliminate the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved rape cases and work faster to remove rapists from the community.   The bipartisan SAFER Act was led by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). It reallocates existing spending to ensure that more goes directly to testing cases. It also requires that states and cities that receive SAFER funds audit and publicly disclose their backlog for the first time.

This is exciting and a huge victory to not only get VAWA reauthorized but to have the proposed provisions added on for LGBTQ and Tribal victims of violence.  This work has been a uniting goal for the many national and state coalitions public policy staff over the last few years.  Global activisim events like One Billion Rising were also instrumental in raising awareness, educating the public on the issues, and organizing communities to act.  

VAWA is stalling in the House

It is unbelievable that the Violence Against Women Act is still in debate.  If over 20 House Republicans are supporting the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate, how is it that it still won’t go through?  How can Republicans halt this non-partisan issue and historically bipartisan bill and still feel good about representing their constituency?

For those who are focusing on this issue for the first time, the reauthorization of VAWA was allowed to defunct.  The bill this year is asking for it to be reestablished and added provisions that address concerns and gaps still in existence.  These additions are not really new but rather adding a defined focus to groups of women who are even more marginalized and at risk for violence:  undocumented victims of domestic violence, LGBTQ victims of violence, and Native American victims of violence.  What the House Republicans are specifically objecting to are that; the bill increases the number of visas available to undocumented victims of domestic violence, the bill proposes to deny grant money to organizations that discriminate against LGBT victims of domestic violence, and the bill allows Native American tribal courts to prosecute non-tribe members who are accused of abusing their Native American partners.

The Senate did address one item in advance of sending it to the Hill: Senate Democrats removed the section of the draft VAWA that would have granted more visas to undocumented victims of domestic violence who cooperate with police against their abusers.  Republicans are charging that increasing the number of visas available would lead to fraud; although it is clear that law enforcement determines whether an individual has been helpful in an investigation and is therefore eligible for such a visa.  The clarification of what fraud would happen is not clear.  The National Congress of American Indians has stated that these changes (requiring the tribal courts to gain permission of the US attorney general before prosecuting a non-member) make it harder to prosecute non-tribe members and harder to protect victims of violence.  Additionally, the protections that have been in place up to now (courts can issue civil protection orders) will now have additional barriers in place to request and process these protection orders, by requiring a that a criminal threshold be met in order to exercise civil authority.  The National Congress of American Indians opposes this an unnecessary burden placed on tribal courts and an increased barrier to prosecuting perpetrators for victims.

However, this compromise was made and it passed the Senate with 78 votes.  Even with this compromise, House Republicans are still not willing to support reauthorizing protection for victims of domestic violence.  And they still are failing to fully protect under-served survivors who identify as LGBTQ by removing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of populations who encounter barriers to services and failing to require grant funded programs to provide their services to every victim of violence, regardless of orientation and/or identity.  To further negatively impact LGBTQ victims of violence and increase their barriers to services, the bill excludes the LGBTQ community from the largest VAW grant program, STOP.  (The Centers for Disease Control has found that same-sex couples experience domestic violence at the same rates as heterosexual couples.)

Help us get VAWA passed to ensure protection for all victims of domestic violence.

We still need to get VAWA passed in the United States! Keep the momentum going..

One Billion Rising events are just the beginning.  Keep the momentum going and continue your activism to create the change we want.

VAWA has passed the Senate and now it needs to pass the House.  Help us get is passed, join V-DAY’s plan to get VAWA passed by International Women’s Day on March 8th.  Why is VAWA so important? LEARN more

Want to get started?  It’s simple – click this link (made easy by Feminist Majority), put in your zip code and find out who you need to contact in your area to ask that VAWA be passed.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence updates a list of current supporters in Congress here – Thank them for their support of this important initiative and outreach those who have not yet decided to stand up for survivors and put their vote to VAWA.

V-DAY has some great suggestions to keep the momentum going, see the repost below:

THIS Week:
Organize an event in your communities! Your representatives are currently at home and they need to see the support and feel the pressure of their constituents. You can do this event anywhere and the event can be anything:

  • You’ve already got your dancing shoes on so hold a RISE for VAWA flash mob!
  • Hold a rally in a public space (town square, local mall, town hall etc) and invite local activists to speak about the importance of VAWA and ending violence against women and girls
  • Protest outside of government offices and buildings
  • Hold a concert, open mic night, theatrical production, etc to support VAWA and those working to get it passed

Any of these options and more will help highlight the support for VAWA in your community.

NEXT Week:

Starting on Monday February 25th, your representatives will be back in Washington D.C. We are urging you ALL to flood their telephone lines and email inboxes with messages of support for VAWA. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

DOWNLOAD the RISE for VAWA Poster >

Don’t forget to invite the press! The more support our representatives see for VAWA the greater the chance for success!! Check out our One Billion Rising Media Tips >


To Read: Wartime Sexual Violence: Misconceptions, Implications, and Ways Forward

For those of you interested in sexual violence in conflict and war, here is an excellent report to address misconceptions held by society, implications for our communities’ health and well-being, as well as politics and suggestions for policy-makers to create change for the future.
February 2013 | Special Report of the United States Institute of Peace by Dara Kay Cohen, Amelia Hoover Green, and Elisabeth Jean Wood

This report was launched as a result of the implementation of The Missing Peace Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict settings.   The following organisations collaborated to address the issues of conflict-related sexual violence with the goal to identify gaps in knowledge, gaps in reporting, and to identify means to increase effectiveness of response:  United States Institute of Peace (USIP); the Human Rights Center at the University of California, Berkeley; the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO); and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute North America (SIPRI North America).

The authors identify and summarize ten major misconceptions about wartime sexual violence.  They go on to highlight not only gaps in knowledge but advances already being made that can be replicated to reduce sexual violence in conflict and create safer communities. Additionally, for policy-makers, their report outlines the implications of these findings for policy-making as a means to correct institutional and state sanctioned patterns of misconduct.

Some of the more notable facts discovered and salient points made by the authors:

  • Rape as a tactic in wartime rape is not inevitable nor widespread. A reality is that sexual violence varies from country to country, type of conflict, and within armed factions or groups. To be recognized is that some political factions or armed groups can and do prohibit sexual violence. This evidence of variation and presence of positive action from some armed groups leads to the conclusion that policy interventions should also be focused on armed groups, and that commanders in effective control of their troops can be and are, in fact, legally liable for patterns of sexual violence they fail or refuse to prevent.
  • Rape in conflict and wartime rape can happen anywhere.  It is not specific to certain types of conflicts, to geographic regions, or to ethnic or non-ethnic wars.
  • State forces are more likely to be reported as perpetrators of sexual violence than rebels. This may indicate that States may be more susceptible than rebels to naming and shaming campaigns around sexual violence as an impact of institutionalized belief systems perpetuated.
  • Perpetrators and victims are not always who we expect them to be. Perpetrators of sexual violence are often not armed soldiers or rebels but can be civilians. Perpetrators also are not exclusively male, nor are victims exclusively female. Policymakers should not neglect non-stereotypical perpetrators and victims.
  • Rape in wartime rape is often not an intentional strategy of war: it is more frequently tolerated than ordered. Nonetheless, as the authors noted above, commanders in effective control of their troops are legally liable for sexual violence perpetrated by those troops.
  • Within gaps identified, in particular, existing data cannot determine conclusively whether wartime sexual violence on a global level is increasing, decreasing, or holding steady.  To date, much remains unknown about the patterns and causes of wartime sexual violence and further study and action is required.  To that end, policymakers should instead focus on variation at lower levels of aggregation, and especially across armed groups.

The Authors and their connection to Anti-Violence Work

Dara Kay Cohen is an assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, is completing a book project on wartime rape during recent civil conflicts.
Amelia Hoover Green is an assistant professor of political science at Drexel University, is focusing her current book on armed group’s efforts to control repertoires of violence against civilians.
Both Cohen and Hoover Green were USIP Peace Scholars in 2008 and 2009.
Elisabeth Jean Wood is a professor of political science at Yale University and was a USIP Peace Scholar in 1993 and 1994. Her work focuses on political violence, civil war, and social movements. She is completing a book manuscript titled Wartime Sexual Violence.
The report was written by the authors in their personal capacities, and the views are theirs alone.


Sample Proclamation for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Have you outreached your Mayor or Governor to establishe a teen dating violence awareness month proclamation?  See a sample proclamation below:

Whereas, dating violence is a reality for many youth, and an issue that many parents are unaware of; and,

Whereas, 1 in 3 young people are affected by physical, sexual, or verbal dating violence, with 1 in 5 in a serious relationship reporting having been slapped, pushed, hit, threatened or coerced by a partner, and breakups can be a time of even greater risk even when a relationship was never physically abusive; and,

Whereas, Young people can choose better relationships when they understand that healthy relationships are based on respect and learn to identify early warning signs of an abusive relationship; and

Whereas, Elimination of dating violence must be achieved through cooperation of individuals, organizations, and communities; and,

Whereas, Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month provides an excellent opportunity for citizens to learn more about preventing dating violence and to show support for the numerous organizations and individuals who provide critical advocacy, services and assistance to victims;

Now therefore be it, Resolved, That I, ________________, do hereby proclaim the month of February, 2010, as Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month in ____________.

Please send a copy of your Mayor or Governor’s proclamation to – The EMILY Fund PO Box 430, Roosevelt, NJ 08555-0430 or send a scan to: or Fax to 1-888-247-1291

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