Violence Against Women Act clears U.S. Senate, goes to House
BY World's Editorials Writers
Friday, February 15, 2013
2/15/13 at 7:00 AM
Good news: The Senate this week passed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in a 78-22 vote. Disappointing news: Sens. James M. Inhofe and Tom Coburn, who represent a state with historically high levels of domestic violence, voted against renewal. In its 18 years, the act has shielded millions of women from abuse and helped reduce national rates of domestic violence.
The act expired in 2011, putting efforts to improve its many federal programs on hold. Last year, both the House and Senate passed renewal bills, but they were unable to reach a compromise.
In the fractured House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is serving as chief negotiator to get a version on the table.
VAWA is credited with dropping domestic-related U.S. homicides by 60 percent. The act, which also protects male victims, has beefed up the criminal justice system's ability to address domestic and sexual abuse and expanded services for those victimized. At least 600,000 law enforcement officers, judges and prosecutors have been trained through VAWA grants.
Conservative Republicans have resisted adding expanded protections for American Indians, lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender victims and immigrants, all vulnerable populations.
Marcia Smith, executive director of the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, a 29-agency group, says, "What bothers me the most is that the issue holding it up is not about money; it's the reluctance to expand services. These all are human beings we are talking about."
Oklahoma had nearly 25,000 reported cases of domestic abuse last year.
Reauthorizing VAWA really comes down to preserving services that otherwise will vanish. If those services disappear so too do protections for thousands of women and men caught in abusive situations.
Oklahoma's five-member Republican House delegation has a chance to show its human side by passage of VAWA. Saving lives should not be a partisan issue.
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