The 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act — landmark legislation that was signed into law by President Clinton on September 13, 1994 — comes at a particularly prescient moment, as the country is engaged in a national conversation about the NFL’s responsibility to adequately respond to incidences of domestic abuse perpetrated by its football players.
As all attention has been focused on the video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator, as well as the NFL’s botched response to the surveillance tape evidence, it can be hard to feel like the country is taking any meaningful steps toward taking violence against women seriously. But, while there’s certainly a lot of work left to be done, the national legislation aimed at supporting victims of domestic violence has changed the landscape in some significant ways.
Here’s a look at how we’ve progressed in the past two decades:
We have more resources to address and prevent domestic abuse.
The whole point of VAWA is to provide more institutional resources for domestic violence victims. In order to accomplish that, the law expanded the network of rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters across the country, as well as established the National Domestic Violence Hotline. VAWA also provides funding for efforts to prevent crime, like expanding youth education programs to teach kids about what constitutes dating violence, implementing safety measures on public transportation, and requiring the government to conduct more research into domestic violence so we’ll have a better understanding of the scope of the problem.
Fewer people are becoming victims of violence.
According to data from the Department of Justice, domestic violence rates declined 64 percent between 1993 and 2010. And the rate of women being murdered men in single victim/single offender situations — often characteristic of intimate partner violence — dropped by 26 percent over a similar time period, between 1996 and 2012. One study attempting to figure out why domestic violence rates dropped so dramatically in the 1990s attributed the decline partly to VAWA, which “has been an important impetus for funding in the area of civil legal assistance.”
We’re more comfortable talking about domestic abuse.
“Even just 20 years ago, violence against women in America was an epidemic few people wanted to talk about, let alone do something about,” Vice President Joe Biden, who introduced VAWA and has championed the legislation ever since, pointed out in an op-ed published this week to mark VAWA’s anniversary. But that’s slowly started to change. Victims are becoming more comfortable reaching out; the National Domestic Violence Hotline has received over 3 million calls since 1996, and 92 percent of those callers say it’s their first call for help. Violence against women is no longer considered to be a “private family matter,” and is now widely regarded as something that requires a public solution. According to the advocacy group Futures Without Violence, before the 1980s, there were about 150 articles in major newspapers covering the issue of domestic violence. In the decades of the 2000s, there were more than 7,000.
We’re better at recognizing the diversity of survivors’ experiences.
The latest iteration of VAWA made some important updates to the original 1994 law. It expanded protections for Native American women by giving tribes more authority to prosecute domestic abuse, protected LGBT individuals from being discriminated against in shelters, and ensured that immigrants’ legal status can’t be exploited by their abusers. It also expanded the definition of violence to specifically include crimes like cyberstalking. Those new provisions were a sticking point for many Republicans, who refused to pass the expanded version VAWA in 2013 and allowed the law to lapse in the first time since its 1994 passage. Last February, Congress finally reauthorized VAWA with the protections for diverse groups of victims intact.
We’ve enacted more legal protections for victims.
Before VAWA, we didn’t have a criminal justice system that was set up to handle these issues. Sexual assault and domestic violence weren’t even included in the federal criminal code. VAWA strengthened the federal punishments for those crimes — which led the way for states to reform their own laws in this area so that, for example, spousal rape is now treated just as seriously as stranger rapeacross the country. VAWA funds also train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges every year so they’ll be able to better respond to cases involving intimate partner violence, abuse, and assault. And, thanks to the federal legislation, victims’ past sexual behavior is not admissible in trials where they’re accusing someone else of sexual misconduct.
In a new TV ad, Mitch McConnell’s wife speaks directly to the camera and proclaims the Senate Republican leader’s support for laws to protect women from domestic abuse. “Have you ever noticed how some liberals feel entitled to speak on behalf of all women? As if every woman agrees with Barack Obama. Alison Lundergan Grimes’ gender-based attacks are desperate and false. Mitch McConnell cosponsored the original Violence Against Women Act – he’s always supported its purpose. Mitch voted for even stronger protections than Obama’s agenda will allow,” says Elaine Chao.
The ad oversimplifies McConnell’s complicated history with VAWA, one in which he has voted against final passage and reauthorization of the act, as TPM reported last year during a less high-profile dustup in the Kentucky Senate race.
Chao’s assertion that McConnell cosponsored the original VAWA is accurate — he did so in 1991. But when the act came up for a vote in 1993, McConnell was no longer a cosponsor, and hevoted against the final legislation.
In 2005, the legislation was reauthorized by a voice vote in the Senate. Then in 2012, McConnellvoted against a Senate-approved bipartisan version of VAWA which stalled in the House. In 2013, a similar bill to renew and expand VAWA passed the Senate with 78 votes; McConnell was one of 22 senators to vote against it. That version was eventually taken up and passed by the Republican-controlled House and signed into law.
That’s the basis for which Grimes’ recent attack ad claims McConnell voted “two times against the Violence Against Women Act.”
Chao asserts that McConnell has “always supported [VAWA’s] purpose” and “voted for even stronger protections.”
The latter claim is debatable. In 2012, McConnell supported a scaled-back VAWA alternativepushed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). It largely renewed the expiring programs but omitted protections for LGBT women, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants who suffered from domestic abuse. At the time, Republicans hardly sought to argue that their bill included “stronger protections” for women — they instead said the tribal jurisdiction provisions in the bipartisan VAWA proposal were unconstitutional.
The Grimes campaign blasted the new ad in a statement on Tuesday. “Simply saying, ‘I’m married to a woman’ doesn’t speak loud enough. Your actions and record over 30 years in Washington indicate where and how you will stand up for women,” said Grimes spokeswoman Charly Norton.
The new McConnell ad is an attempt to defend against relentless attacks by Grimes, the U.S. Senate nominee from Kentucky, portraying the longtime incumbent as anti-woman. A large part of the Grimes assault involves the Violence Against Women Act, a federal law to fund programs to combat domestic abuse. It isn’t the first time the McConnell campaign has been defensive over VAWA.
"Alison, supporting the Obama agenda isn’t pro-woman," Chao says in the ad. "It’s anti-Kentucky."
The Kentucky Senate race is neck and neck. McConnell is ahead by just 1 percentage point, according to the TPM PollTracker average.
Source: Sahil Kapur for Talking Points Memo
Here are three issues where McConnell’s campaign has obscured his stance.
1. Ryan budget? What Ryan budget?
McConnell has been an aggressive supporter of the controversial budget blueprints by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to slash taxes and privatize Medicare — he voted for them when they came up in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Recently Grimes attacked him in an ad claiming the 2011 version of Ryan’s budget would raise a retiree’s Medicare costs by $6,000. In response McConnell’s campaign backed away from his previous alliance with Ryan’s budget, telling FactCheck.org, “There is no way to speculate if [McConnell] would have voted for final passage without having debated amendments.” His campaign made a similar comment to a WFPL reporter.
To be sure, Grimes’ attack was embellished — the $6,000 figure applied only to the 2011 Ryan budget, not the updated versions, and would impact those 55 and under at time of passage. But McConnell’s campaign didn’t argue that, nor did it respond to TPM’s requests to explain what he’d want to change in the budget.
Instead he distanced himself from a proposal that is an article of faith in the GOP, which he strongly supported and united nearly every GOP senator behind.
2. Obamacare is unconnected to … Obamacare
It is a cruel irony that McConnell, Obamacare’s most formidable enemy, hails from a state where it is working considerably well. In May, faced with the fact that some 413,000 Kentuckians are benefiting from Obamacare via its popular state exchange Kynect, McConnell told home state reporters the two were “unconnected” when asked if he wanted to dismantle Kynect.
His campaign spokeswoman explained his position: “If Obamacare is repealed, Kentucky should decide for itself whether to keep Kynect or set up a different marketplace,” said Allison Moore.
The stance is unconnected to Obamacare realities. Kynect is inoperable without the health care law which provides the subsidies, consumer protections and coverage mandates from which Kentuckians are benefit. Without Obamacare, Kynect is hollow. McConnell’s comments would make more sense if he had an alternate plan to reconstruct Kynect in a world without Obamacare. But doesn’t appear to have one. When TPM put that question to McConnell he responded, “Yeah, we’ve already addressed that issue, and I don’t have anything to add.”
3. Violence Against Women Act? I’m all for it!
Women voters are ordinarily a sore spot for McConnell, but more so this year as Grimes makes an aggressive pitch for them. Last August, McConnell held an event in Kentucky called “Women For Team Mitch” and distributed packets to reporters which, among other things, featured a constituent touting his ostensible support for the Violence Against Women Act, an anti-domestic-abuse law that Congress had renewed just months earlier.
The problem: McConnell has consistently voted against the act. Although he did cosponsor VAWA legislation in 1991, which his campaign testimonial touted, the packet neglected to mention that McConnell voted against passage of the bill when it originally came up in 1993. He also voted against reauthorizing it in 2012 and 2013, the only two times that Congress has held recorded votes to renew it.
McConnell’s campaign wouldn’t comment on the matter. During the VAWA debates in 2012 and 2013 he supported a scaled-back version which excluded protections for LGBT victims, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants. A bipartisan version which included those protections eventually became law.
Mitch McConnell: say one thing, do another. Let’s send him packing in November at the ballot box by replacing him with Alison Lundergan Grimes.
H/T: Sahil Kapur at TPM
Mitch McConnell = hypocrite. Remember to vote for Alison Lundergan Grimes in November 2014.
HYPOCRITE ALERT: In Effort To Woo Female Voters, Mitch McConnell Touts Women's Law He Voted Against [#KYSen] | ThinkProgress
A press release distributed by Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) campaign at a “Women for Team Mitch” event on Friday brags about the Senate Minority Leader’s support for the Violence Against Women Act, even though McConnell voted against the measure in1994, 2012, and 2013.
“Mitch was the co-sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act — and continues to advocate for stronger polices to protect women. I am proud to call him my senator,” the document quotes a voter as saying.
Joe Sonka, a staff writer for Louisville’s Alt-Weekly first tweeted a copy of the release, hinting at the contradiction and noting that McConnell didn’t address women’s issues at the event or take any questions from women. Former Congresswoman Anne Northup, a spokesperson for the campaign, also told Sonka that bills like the Lilly Ledbetter Act and Paycheck Fairness Act — both of which McConnell voted against — “make the workplace more difficult for women.”
McConnell has embellished on his voting record in the past, insisting that he voted against VAWA because he sought a stronger version. During the event, McConnell’s wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, also claimed that her husband supports increasing cancer screenings and check-ups for women, even though he is campaigning on repealing the Affordable Care Act, which specifically increases women’s access to preventive medicine.
McConnell is a pathetic liar.
Five Reasons to Vote Out Missouri Rep Ann Wagner [#MO02]:
1. When first running for Missouri’s Second Congressional district…
2. Sponsors bills that waste tax payer money and could be handled in her home state.
- H.R. 2391: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 5323 Highway N in Cottleville, Missouri as the “Lance Corporal Phillip Vinnedge Post Office”.
3. She is anti-student.
4. She is anti-American worker.
- She co-sponsored the bill getting rid of overtime pay for hourly workers.
- She even stood up in congress to dance around what the bill actually did.
5. She isn’t homophobic, racist or anti-woman but…
- She voted against the Democrats version of the Violence Against Women Act because it included protection for Native women on tribal land and protecting gay people. In truly disgusting political form, she voted against the Act then sent an email to her constituent saying that we was, “pleased to stand up for all women who are victims of violence and abuse.”
SAN JOSE, CA — Despite massive protests, abortion opponents pushed through yet more radical restrictions on women’s reproductive rights last week. House Republicans passed a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — a largely symbolic move destined for failure in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Early Monday morning, even as the capitol flooded with protesters, Texas Republicans approved a legislative package to force most abortion clinics out of operation. Other extremely restrictive bills are winding their way through Republican-dominated state legislatures.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) blasted the GOP’s continued assault on reproductive rights in an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress on Saturday. She noted the 20-week abortion ban was just the latest example of House Republicans’ priorities, which have included attempts to kill the Violence Against Women Act and to defund Planned Parenthood. Though House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) Congress has gone down in history as the least productive Congress since World War II, House Republicans have aggressively pursued anti-choice legislation in recent years. In response, Americans increasingly brand the GOP as a party of anti-woman extremists, which sunk the 2012 campaigns of several Republican candidates who were too blunt about their desires to restrict women’s access to health services. Women — even Republican lawmakers — have fled the party.
Pelosi also dared Republicans to try to strike down the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, predicting an even stronger backlash against anti-abortion extremism:
I’m not sure that the Republicans actually want Roe v. Wade to be struck down. Their base does. But from their standpoint, they’ve had plenty of opportunities to strike Roe v. Wade. They have these parades every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but they have not acted in a way that would take it to the courts. Now, other people outside have their cases and all that. But President Bush, with a majority in Congress and a court inclined to strike down Roe v. Wade, he didn’t need to do it. And that should tell you something. They want the issue. Better to have the issue. Because if they strike it down they will have such a backlash in the country.
Pelosi also laughed off a letter issued by Priests for Life last week demanding she renounce her Catholic faith for “betraying and misrepresenting the Catholic faith” by supporting a woman’s right to choose. The congresswoman said she has no problem reconciling her faith with her pro-choice stance.
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is currently out on bail while appealing his three year prison sentence in his corruption case, took the time to join Rick Scarborough on a March 7th Tea Party Unity conference call where he criticized the Violence Against Women Act.
He attacked the law because it “includes homosexuality, transgender; setting up all kinds of different classes of sexual deviance,” and later called it “unconstitutional.”While they were having a meeting with the Values Action Team, which is reaching out to those values organizations, in the same week they passed the Senate’s Violence Against Women Act that includes homosexuality, transgender; setting up all kinds of different classes of sexual deviance. It’s just absolutely amazing that they did that. They fashioned a rule so it would be easier to pass the Senate bill, which is a wacko leftist bill. We as groups need to understand that that’s happening and reach out to the members of the House and the Senate and tell them enough is enough.
This is how we took over the House for the first time in forty years in 1994’s election is that for five years we spent five years providing alternatives to everything the Democrats were doing: alternative bills, alternative amendments, alternative press releases. We expressed ourselves by always having an alternative. The same here, if there is a Violence Against Women Act there should be a conservative alternative. First and foremost, they should point out the fact the whole act itself is unconstitutional.
DeLay insisted that conservatives need to “rebuild our infrastructure” in order to win elections again, by establishing new groups to “hold the media accountable” and creating “an outside organization that is focused on taking over our schools.”
This is helping the liberals, this is horrible. Unbelievable. What really bothers — it’s called a women’s act, but then they have men dressed up as women, they count that. Change-gender, or whatever. How is that — how is that a woman?
Here we go again: serial distortion artist Dana Loesch has attacked the recently reinstated REAL version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), while supporting the House GOP’s fake version (certain GOPers supporting their faux-VAWA bill and taking credit for passing it, while voting against the real version). She has a long history of attacking VAWA.
VAWA is NOT a “slush fund”, you fucking arrogant nutjob!
It was only last year that Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance criticized the term “war on women” as “phony, focus-grouped rhetoric” geared to “raise money and hackles” among Democrats. She predicted that women would turn on Obama and wouldn’t vote on issues such as abortion rights or birth control access (unless they are anti-choice). Of course, exit polls showed that Obama carried women voters over Romney 55-44% and that 59% of voters said abortion should be legal either in all or most cases.
So it should come as no surprise that Nance is now using the “war” rhetoric in her latestWashington Times op-ed: “When high-sounding legislation becomes a war against women.” That’s right, she now believes that there is in fact a war on women, but that it comes from supporters of the Violence Against Women Act.
She claims that VAWA “hurts sex-trafficking victims,” even though 93 Senators voted for a Sen. Patrick Leahy’s amendment focused on combating the trafficking of women and girls.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
GOP Congresswoman Blackburn: "I Opposed Domestic Violence Bill Because It Protected Too Many Groups"
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) on Monday openly admitted that she opposed the latest reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) because it included protections for LGBT, Native American, and undocumented victims of domestic violence.
In an appearance on MSNBC, Blackburn pointed out that the latest iteration of the law protects “different groups” and thus dilutes funding for straight, non-Native American women with the proper documentation:
When you start to make this about other things it becomes an “against violence act” and not a targeted focus act… I didn’t like the way it was expanded to include other different groups. What you need is something that is focused specifically to help the shelters and to help out law enforcement, who is trying to work with the crimes that have been committed against women and helping them to stand up.
Domestic violence is domestic violence, period. And there is no way to justify Blackburn’s suggestion that some victims of this violence are more deserving than others.
Additionally, the reauthorized VAWA includes provisions to prevent serial rapists and similar abusers from preying on Native American women. If Blackburn considers Native American women a “different group,” then it’s one she should be most concerned about: Three out of every five Native American women has been assaulted by an intimate partner.
WASHINGTON — The Violence Against Women Act is finally heading to the president’s desk this week after a dragged out political fight over expanding protections to Native American, LGBT and immigrant victims of abuse.
The House voted 286 to 138 on Thursday to pass the bipartisan Senate version of VAWA.
The vote came just after the House rejected its own GOP bill, 166 to 257, which drew loud cheers in the chamber. Sixty Republicans voted against the GOP bill.
Throughout the debate, House Republicans maintained that their bill would have covered all women. But the reality is that it didn’t go as far as the bipartisan Senate bill. The House bill stripped out protections for LGBT victims of abuse, it didn’t give tribal courts new authority in certain domestic violence cases and it added new eligibility restrictions for U Visas for abused immigrant women. The House bill also entirely left out two separate measures attached to the Senate bill: the SAFER Act, which helps law enforcement address a backlog in untested rape kits, and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which targets human trafficking.
The House Republican bill appeared doomed before it hit the floor. It had zero support from Democrats, and a growing number of Republicans were saying they couldn’t support it.
After nearly a year of resistance that has damaged them politically with women voters, House Republicans have found a clever way to back down on the reauthorization of an expanded Violence Against Women Act, aides confirmed to TPM late Tuesday.
The original plan was for the Republican majority in the House to pass its version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization and then go to conference conference committee with the Senate. The Senate has already overwhelmingly passed a more aggressive bill, with protections for LGBT, Native American and undocumented women that have been at the heart of the dispute with House Republicans.
But all that changed Tuesday night. The Rules Committee instead sent the House GOP’s versionof the Violence Against Women Act to the floor with a key caveat: if that legislation fails, then the Senate-passed version will get an up-or-down vote.
The big admission implicit in this latest move is that House GOP leaders don’t believe they have the votes to pass their version of the bill but that the Senate version is likely to pass the chamber. So this way they’ll give House conservatives the first bite at the apple as a way of saving face and still resolve an issue that has hurt them politically.
Here’s how Democrats expect it to play out.
After the House finishes debating the GOP-version of the bill on Wednesday and Thursday, it will get a vote, but will fail to muster enough votes for passage due to conservative and Democratic opposition. So the Senate-passed bill will get a vote instead, and Democrats as well as a faction of more moderate Republicans will carry it to victory. Then it will go straight to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
“[Rules Committee Chairman] Pete Sessions laid it out in not so many words that this is what the majority’s plan is,” a House Democratic aide said Tuesday evening. “They’re anticipating that their version gets voted down. But it’s clear the Senate bill will pass with flying colors.”
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM