Hey, House Republicans! Know what US women really want for V-Day? We want you to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act!
Two emails just came across my desk. The first was from our Colorado Representative, Diana DeGette, with the news that although today the Senate has passed an expanded version of the Violence Against Woman Act, some House Republicans are refusing to bring this essential legislation to a vote. VAWA was enacted in 1994 to provide a comprehensive federal approach to violence against women, including strengthening penalties, protecting victim identities, assisting with the expense of rape exams, training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges, and establishing a National Domestic Violence Hotline. VAWA has helped create a criminal justice system that takes violence against women seriously and has raised societal awareness about the horrific nature of these crimes. Despite the critical need for this legislation, the House blocked reauthorization last year and is poised to do the same this week.
The second email came from SheWrites with an announcement of the One Billion Rising campaign in recognition of the 15th anniversary of V-Day, the movement to end violence against women and girls around the world generated by Eve Ensler’s courageous play The Vagina Monologues. One Billion Rising calls for women to rise up in activism this Thursday by sharing stories, messages, images, and rallies to protest of sexual assault, domestic abuse, and all acts of violence that continue to restrict and endanger the lives of women and girls.
These two emails are the same email. Conservative forces want to limit the power of women to live without fear of violence by failing to enact and enforce legislation and policies that protect women’s rights to safety, liberty, and justice. But resistance to that fear and the crimes behind it is growing around the world, from the outcry against the gang-rape and murder of a young woman in India, to the admiration for Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teenager attacked by the Taliban, to the US movement demanding immediate reauthorization of VAWA.
For me, these emails come at a time when I’m thinking a lot about my friend, June Friedman, who was murdered 30 years ago last June. Next month, a collection of books published by feminist and lesbian presses will be dedicated in her name as part of Morgan Library’s Special Collections at Colorado State University. The collection is comprised, in part, of books I collected while writing my dissertation 20 years ago on the history of feminist presses in the U.S. and donated to CSU where I was an undergraduate and member, along with June, of the student feminist group.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll say at the reception next month regarding this collection, the 1970s women’s movement that launched my feminist activism and my friendship with June, and the importance of protecting the rights we have gained. I’m angry that less than 20 years after the enactment of VAWA, we’re still fighting sexist, misogynist, conservative views on women’s rights, down to the basic idea that woman have a legal right to protection, enforcement, and prosecution against gender-based violence.
If VAWA had been enacted when my friend was murdered so many years ago, perhaps her murder case would not be unresolved today. Perhaps the resources necessary to bring her murderer to justice would have been available. Perhaps attitudes about the seriousness of crimes against women would have changed the outcome of her case. Perhaps if her murderer had lived in a world that believed that all women have a right to freedom from violence, she would be with us today.
Don’t wait until this Thursday to be part of the One Billion Rising. Send an email to House Republicans or your Congressional Representative demanding reauthorization of VAWA right now. Let’s hope that by V-Day this Thursday, VAWA reauthorization won’t have to be another of our demands as one billion of us rise against gender violence.