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Thursday, October 23, 2014         

ISLAND VOICES


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Reauthorize law that helped female victims of violence

By Jason Mallonee

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In the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds. Twenty-five percent of all women will have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. One in six women has been sexually assaulted, and one out of 12 has been stalked.

In Hawaii in 2009 alone there were 5,985 instances of abuse of a family or household member, 3,207 cases of domestic violence, and 385 forcible rapes.

Crucial programs and protections for women who experience violence are currently at risk of losing funding because our government has failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in 2011.

The act, drafted by then-Sen. Joe Biden and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, had protections for women who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. It also improved community responses to violence against women by funding programs to educate and coordinate services between law enforcement officers, hospital staff, social service organizations, and members of the judicial system.

Programs funded by the act have proven to be effective. Through coordinating how the community responds to violence, these programs support women in healing from the physical and emotional trauma that often results from these experiences. Additionally, the amount of violent crimes against women in the United States has decreased significantly since the passage of this legislation. From 1993 to 2010, intimate partner violence decreased by 67 percent; from 1993 to 2007, the number of women killed by a partner decreased by 35 percent.

These statistics illustrate how effective and comprehensive the Violence Against Women Act was at reducing violence against women and improving how communities respond to these crimes. Over the years, legislators have recognized that certain populations have been excluded from protection by the act and have attempted to incorporate these protections into reauthorizations of the law.

Through reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005, the act expanded its protections of women, particularly Native American women and immigrant women. These reauthorizations allowed for Native American communities to prosecute crimes against women on tribal land and protected immigrant women from the risk of deportation that often comes with reporting domestic violence.

In late 2011, Senate Bill 1925 was introduced to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, preserving and expanding protections for Native American and immigrant women, and populations otherwise underserved due to location, sexual orientation, gender identity, and racial or ethnic group. It also would allocate funding for programs to target individuals who may face challenges to reporting crimes and accessing services, including individuals with language barriers or disabilities.

Earlier this year, the House passed its own version of the act, H.R. 4970, which would strip these protections for vulnerable populations. By doing so, Congress put into jeopardy the crucial protections and programs that Hawaii depends on to combat these crimes. Every woman deserves protection from violence and an effective system of response when those protections fail.

As we prepare to usher in the 113th Congress, join me in advocating for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act by contacting those who will be representing us in Congress. Ask them to make this a top priority in their future role representing the islands of Hawaii in Washington, D.C.






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