By Emily Fanjoy, Tillamook Co. Women’s Resource Center
The statistics are staggering: on average, four to five people are murdered by their intimate partners each day in America. Several hundred people are raped or sexually assaulted daily. But violence is much more than statistics. Intimate partner or domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (“the four crimes”) touch every one of us. They fill emergency rooms and morgues, keep employees from being able to work, terrorize children, interfere with their ability to learn, and cause long-term harm as demonstrated by the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. They drive up health care costs, contribute to family homelessness, and cause lasting harm to families and communities.
It’s time for concerned citizens and congress to renew and reaffirm their commitment to ending gender based violence to improve the health and safety of our communities. This means investing in prevention. This means increasing access to justice and safety for all survivors. This means holding perpetrators accountable rather than punishing victims and improving enforcement of protective orders. This means ensuring victims and survivors have safe housing and economic stability.
This means reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act with modest and meaningful improvements that enhance our nation’s response to these horrific crimes.
Intimate partner and dating violence, rape and sexual assault, and stalking are pervasive problems in our society. No community is unaffected. Everyone, whether they know it or not, knows someone who is affected by this violence. Recognizing this, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 to improve the nation’s response to the four crimes. It has been reauthorized with bi-partisan support three times since then, in 2000, 2005, and 2013; each reauthorization made vital improvements to previous law.
Tillamook County Women’s Resource Center (TCWRC) welcomes people of all genders and offers bilingual/bicultural services to survivors. TCWRC is one of hundreds of organizations nationally that receives funding and guidance on victim services through VAWA. We provide advocacy services for all survivors of the four crimes by offering information and referral resources to survivors, system navigation, accompaniment services, support groups and counseling. TCWRC operates a 24 helpline and provides emergency food, clothing, and crisis services for survivors as well as an emergency shelter program for survivors in Tillamook County. Through long-standing community partnerships, we provide support services to healthcare, law enforcement, and DHS and to the individuals they serve. This comprehensive work is made possible largely because of the Violence Against Women Act, but the current VAWA is set to expire September 30, 2018.
It is time to reauthorize VAWA again, and this reauthorization, must be responsive to the needs of victims and survivors. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas-18) has introduced H.R.6545, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018. This bill, based on extensive consultation with victim service providers, law enforcement, and other experts, preserves previous gains and improves current law to better meet the needs of victims and survivors of domestic violence. It invests in prevention. It increases access to justice and safety for survivors. It protects victims and survivors and helps them rebuild their lives.
Now more than ever, we need Congress to make it a priority to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act with the modest enhancements encapsulated in H.R.6545 – essential legislation that funds victim services, prevention programs and other critically needed community services. Ending domestic and sexual violence and protecting victims must be a priority in our city, our state and our country. There’s no time to waste. You can contact your representatives and voice your support for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and provide appropriate funding for the programs it supports.