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Preserving VAWA Funding: The Time is Now
Friday, January 27, 2017

The federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), proposed by then-Senator Joe Biden, passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in September 1994, was the culmination of generations of grassroots and institutional advocacy to address violence against women. VAWA has been reauthorized three times – in 2000 by President Clinton, in 2006 by President George W. Bush, and in 2013 by President Barack Obama – each time expanding protections for victims and the services available to them.

Earlier this month, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence issued a statement alerting national and statewide partners of potential plans by the Trump Administration to cut VAWA grant funding as part of extensive cuts to federal spending likely to be proposed. This would mean the loss of all 25 grant programs administered by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. These programs provide critical funding for rape crisis and domestic violence services, law enforcement training and response, sexual violence prevention education, legal needs of victims, housing protections, and services for child victims, women who have been victimized on tribal lands, women with disabilities, and victims from underserved populations, such as LGBTQI victims and those from racially and ethnically diverse communities.

Every state in the U.S. relies on VAWA funding for these critical services, including Ohio, which stands to lose over $9 million in funding if VAWA grant programs are cut. Such cuts would also mean the loss of Rape Prevention Education funding, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provides critical prevention funding to 15 programs in Ohio.

It is essential that all those in the victim services community and all who care about survivors of sexual assault advocate for the protection of VAWA and the critical funding it provides. This isn’t about lobbying or confronting any political agenda. It’s about preserving funding through a federal act that has sustained broad bipartisan support since its enactment 22 years ago. While we at OAESV, along with our national partners, remain hopeful that this bipartisan support will continue, we cannot take it for granted. We must, for the sake of the survivors and communities we serve, be proactive.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Develop talking points and gather personal stories about how VAWA funding has made a difference in your program and community, and what would happen if those funds were cut. Use OAESV’s fact sheet as a starting point, but make it resonate with your community.
  • Talk to Ohio’s Senators and Representatives to Congress: call, email, or visit. They come home several times throughout the year (including in February) – call their offices to arrange a meeting, or organize a town hall and invite them to a discussion with all in your community who care about violence against women.
  • Engage your local media in efforts to educate the public about your program, the services you provide, and how VAWA funding impacts your community. Don’t assume that everyone who is interested in preserving VAWA funding already knows about you or your program.
  • Reach out to survivors you know who may be interested in advocating for VAWA. Empowering survivors to speak out about what’s important to them, should they choose to, is one of the most powerful ways to convey the importance of advocacy services and the funding for them. And survivors are the ones who are most affected by what happens to VAWA funding.
  • Utilize social media in engaging your community, including youth who are so often left out of these discussions and efforts.

The bottom line is that VAWA is essential in enabling survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking to heal and to access justice, and it is critical in helping to hold offenders of these crimes accountable. Without the funding that VAWA provides, survivors and the communities in which they live would suffer. These are our communities and these are the survivors we serve. We cannot allow this to happen.

Thank you for caring about this issue – for caring about survivors. Individually we are powerful. Together we are unstoppable.

The time is now.

For more information about the Violence Against Women Act, or about OAESV's Public Policy Advocacy, please contact our Executive Director.

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