Are You Paying Attention to the Violence Against Women Act?

I've always had a hard time understanding why a group of middle-aged white men are able to dictate many of our country’s civil liberties. But now, it’s going too far.
Publish date:
February 27, 2012
war on women, violence against women act

A once die-hard political debater, I now find myself caught in between giving a damn and not giving a damn at all when it comes to whatever ridiculous political ruckus is occurring that day.

But when this ruckus involves women's bodies, I no longer float in the middle, half-interested. Because, ladies, our bodies are under attack. We're at the point where our leaders are now even polarizing domestic abuse.

This month, for the first time in history, the Violence Against Women Act faced partisan opposition. That's right -- opposition.

The bill was first introduced in 1994, with an aim to end violence and abuse against women. This year, no Republican voted for the bill. Not one. Even though more than three women are, on average, murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are leading the charge to reauthorize the bill, which, among other things, would reduce the backlog of untested rape kits, place an increased emphasis on reducing domestic homicides and sexual assault, strengthen housing protections for domestic violence victims, and focus more on the high rates of violence among teens and young adults.

And speaking of violence among young adults, I wrote about the alarming support for Chris Brown’s recent Grammy performance and win, which got some young women so EXCITED they begged to be beaten by the pop star on Twitter. Couple this sad reality with the recently released Brown/Rihanna duet “Birthday Cake,” on which Rihanna sings, “I know you wanna bite me” to the man who actually did, in fact, bite her —- and beat her unconscious.Just last week in California a 10-year-old girl died after fighting with a fellow fifth grader over a boy. The Los Angeles County Coroner's office has ruled Joanna Ramos' death a homicide.

It seems clearer than ever that focusing on a bill that would bring awareness and protection to young and impressionable people would benefit us all. But apparently all us adults don't agree. Sen. Leahy says that his opponents object to the bill because it aims to “protect too many victims.”

Why anyone in his or her right mind would oppose protecting only a certain number of abuse victims is a question you should be asking yourself (and your elected officials).

Meet Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, who is opposing a bill that has historically garnered bipartisan support. Grassley is leading the opposition against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, on the grounds that it will extend rights to LGBT, Native Americans, and undocumented immigrant women. So, basically, we can't provide you with basic protection in this country if you're gay, follow your own tribal code, or weren’t born here. How's that for the American dream?

“If every group is a priority, no group is a priority," explained Grassley in a recent hearing. But, isn't that exactly the point? When it comes to abuse, every group, every person, should be a priority.

A telling New York Times op-ed stated that the real issue behind the opposition “seems driven largely by an anti-gay, anti-immigrant agenda. The main sticking points seemed to be language in the bill to ensure that victims are not denied services because they are gay or transgender, and a provision that would modestly expand the availability of special visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence — a necessary step to encourage those victims to come forward.”

How has protecting human beings against violence become a partisan issue? And when you consider the current political climate concerning contraception and abortion, how has a woman's right to decide what she wants for her body become the national campaign of conservative men? s.e. smith spoke to just that question in an excellent post last week.

I've always had a hard time understanding why a group of middle-aged white men are able to dictate many of our country’s civil liberties. But now, it’s going too far.

To date, we’ve been bombarded with the Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood funding battle, the contraceptive war, and policies that would force women seeking early-stage abortions to submit to being vaginally penetrated by a condom-covered electronic probe before the abortion is allowed.

Every time I turn on the news now, I ask myself, ‘How did we get to a place where a woman's right to receive basic healthcare, oral contraceptives, and be protected against violence is being debated?’

Ladies, how did we get here, where are we going, and what are we going to about this? Voice your frustrations and take action here, but let’s also talk about how we are going to get those very voices back – because there is a war going on against our bodies, and we need to be on the frontlines, fighting back.