Tick tock, ladies.
For a war that Republicans insist does not exist, the war on women continues in yet another battle with 112th Congressional House Republicans (aka known as the Tea Party House that Boehner can’t lead). This battle is centered around the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which has already expired and with just weeks left to go before Congress goes home, may not be reauthorized this session. With 3 women a day dying as a result of domestic violence, the clock is ticking on American lives.
Seems the House Republicans came up with their own version of a Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 4970) that is so bad the National Organization for Women (NOW) has declared a vote for the House version of VAWA to be a vote against Violence Against Women. In other words, the House version is a pro violence against women act. What else would you expect from the House that Tea built?
Also, President Obama vowed to veto the House version. But Speaker Boehner is hopping around the tea leaves, insisting that American women take what he gives them from the House or they get nothing (aka, blocking the Senate from reconciliation vote).
Yes, the bi-partisan Senate version (Senate bill passed with supermajority vote of 68-31, with 15 Republican senators joining all Democrats to vote in favor) wasn’t good enough for the House Republicans because it failed to adequately shame victims and also failed to shield perpetrators. In fact, it took steps to protect Native American women, the LGBT community, and make campuses safer.
Thus, according to a breakdown from NOW, the boys in the House set about to:
• Partially dismantles and downgrades the Office on Violence Against Women, placing many provisions under the generic Office on Justice Programs, weakening the integrity and focus of the ONLY federal office dedicated to addressing violence against women
• Imposes burdensome paperwork and audits and requires program funds to be directed away from direct services, technical assistance and financial training
• Erodes important provisions for immigrant victims’ safety, allowing abuser access to the self-petition process, where they can block the victim’s access to this critical remedy for battered immigrants
• Rolls back provisions for culturally specific services currently in VAWA
• Excludes key improvements in current law to address the specific needs of communities of color
• Rolls back current law by changing “shall” to “may” in language requiring that recipients of STOP program funding consult with community stakeholders, including victim service providers, law enforcement and prosecutors
• Rolls back and makes a fundamental shift in VAWA with the new tribal protection order amendment; since 1995 VAWA has recognized the authority of Indian tribes / tribal courts, and the bill’s expansion of the role of the federal bench to perform a tribal function is an erosion of tribal authority
• Removes notice of VAWA housing rights to victims BEFORE eviction
• Imposes a mandatory minimum sentence for sexual assault and rape, eliminating judges’ sentencing authority; long sentencing will reduce reporting, and defendants with means will be able to avoid this sentence and plead to a non-sexual assault crime
The first version of VAWA was authored by then-Senator Biden in 1994; he has claimed this achievement as the one of which he is most proud. Joe has always had our backs. Since the passage of the act, annual incidents of domestic violence have dropped by more than 60 percent.
Naturally, the House refuses to consider the bi-partisan Senate version, seeing as it expands rights for women, undocumented immigrants, and the LGBT community.
The boys in the broken House defend their version because they claim it will crack down on immigration fraud if we fail to protect female undocumented immigrants from domestic violence. File this under their theory that torture works and see if you can find American exceptionalism in that toxic brew, because even if they were right (and there’s no evidence that they are), this means that Republicans are willing to expose all American women to life-threatening danger in order to punish a few women for being undocumented.
This is akin to sending our troops into battle without necessary equipment, because sadly the American war on women translates to a violent death three times a day on average, and that’s with a funded Violence Against Women Act. It’s reasonable to expect violence against women to increase by 60% (back to the rates pre-VAWA) if the act is left unfunded over the long-term.
If you’re thinking this is hyperbolic, then perhaps statistics don’t do it for you. In that case, watch this episode of Biography’s “I survived”, in which two women tell their stories: a teenage girl is stalked, sexually assaulted and shot in the face by her jealous ex-boyfriend, and a woman’s controlling husband resorts to violent rape and chokes her (warning re the disturbing content). Sadly, their stories are not unusual. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.
The economic cost alone of intimate partner violence should be enough to make a real fiscal conservative want to ensure preventative measures against the problem, but once again, the tea party ideology of restricting rights to “you people” takes precedence over supporting the freedom and liberty of American women and common sense approaches to health care policy.
Speaker Boehner, who equated the war on women to being as fake as a “war on caterpillars”, is tired of the “war on women” and wants YOU to “give him a break”. We can only assume that the Speaker is so free to joke about breaking things because he has not found himself or a loved one the victim of a violent crime. I challenge the Speaker to visit one of the many battered women in the hospital with a TV crew along for the ride, and looking into the eyes of a woman whose face was decimated by her boyfriend’s gun, tell her to give him a break.
Perhaps he can tell this brave young girl, pictured here post reconstructive surgery after being shot in the face by her ex-boyfriend, to give him a break:
(image courtesy of Biography.com)
Yes, they want you to believe this stuff only happens in other countries — the ones where we go “to spread democracy”. But violence against women is systemic and epidemic right here, in the United States, land of the “free”.
Turns out, the GOP war on women is as real as violence against women and Boehner’s enabling it if not condoning it through his weak leadership and inability to control the tea party faction.
In order to appreciate the contrast in approaches and priorities, watch the Obama administration’s “1 is 2 many” PSA on dating violence here (brilliantly using leaders in sports to talk to young men):
With only six weeks left before they go home to campaign for re-election, American women may be left fending for themselves once again unless someone can convince our elected officials to act now on the Senate version of VAWA. NOW urges activists to take the next two weeks to pressure Congress to pass the Senate version.
You may voice your civil (or just act like a caterpillar if you think that might help) concern here:
Your Member of Congress, 202-224-3121 (Capitol Switchboard)
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), 202-225-0600
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), 202-225-4000
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), 202-225-0100
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), 202-224-3542
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), 202-224-3135
Chair of the Democratic Conference Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), 202-224-6542
24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, based on a survey conducted in 2010.
Are Republicans going to further endanger our safety and liberty? Tick tock.
Additional reading on costs of intimate partner violence here.