Enacted in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act, was a landmark piece of legislation that provided federal funds to assist in the investigation and prosecution of incidents stemming from domestic violence. Since its creation, Congress has twice reauthorized the law with overwhelming support from both sides of the political aisle.
Despite tremendous bipartisan success in the past, the reauthorization of the domestic violence law has received far less bipartisan support. Two different versions of the reauthorization bill were approved in the U.S. Senate and House.
The Wisconsin delegation in the House was split on the reauthorization of the Act. Both Republicans and Democrats have provisions of the act to which they raise strident objections or want included. For now, negotiators will be appointed to work out the differences between the two bills.
The Senate bill extends the bill have provisions to protect immigrants, in addition to the gay and lesbian community, while the House version does not. While the sides seem to be at odds, the legislation has passed and the differences will likely be worked out. Yet many legislators agree that this is an important law and it needs to continue being enforced and supported.
This post is not meant to be a political commentary, especially considering the uncontroversial nature of the bill in past legislative sessions. Yet the failure of Congress to provide funding has had a negative impact on Wisconsin families. All of this bickering has left Wisconsin social service groups providing support for victims of domestic violence wondering if they will receive the federal funds necessary to continue operating. These service groups provide help, safety, support and shelter to hundreds of women every year. These women have been victims of a crime or need help escaping from a messy divorce with an abusive husband.
Since 1994, the VAWA has provided more than $42 million in aid to Wisconsin non-profits and government agencies to help protect women. The funds have gone to support shelters for the women and their children and have provided them with the legal resources they need to secure restraining orders. These legal maneuvers provide the security needed in order to carry on with everyday life or move through a disputed divorce. Families in this tough situation would likely benefit from exploring all of their options in order to achieve a positive resolution to their case.
Source Appleton Post Crescent, "Violence Against Women Act reauthorization puts lawmakers at odds," Larry Bivins, May 21, 2012