Violence Against Women Act rally
Violence Against Women Act rally

Credit: National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–Women’s safety advocates welcome last’s week’s report of a steep and long-term decline in intimate-partner violence in the United States and say it’s a good reason for lawmakers to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act before the end of the year.

“It doesn’t surprise me that intimate-partner violence cases have declined dramatically,” said Kim Gandy, CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, in a phone interview.

“These numbers prove that the Violence Against Women Act is working and effective,” Gandy added, referring to a 1994 law enacted with bipartisan support that provides critical services for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Nov. 27 report indicates a national overall decline of 64 percent in nonfatal intimate-partner violence between 1993 and 2010. Cases fell to 907,000 in 2010 from 2.1 million in 1993.

The figures included rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault committed by a spouse, former spouse, boyfriends or girlfriend. They were collected from the agency’s annual household survey of personal victimization over a 17-year period. Homicide was not included.

Discussion of renewal is now with the House of Representatives and supporters of the Violence Against Women Act are concerned that, with two weeks left, the law may be allowed to expire.

“The opportunity is now before the end of the year,” said Gandy. “Women shouldn’t have to wait another day.”

On the Agenda

Renewal of the bill is on the agenda for Congress now that the election is over.

In April, a version of the Violence Against Women Act was approved by the Senate, despite strong Republican opposition to certain provisions, such as expanding protections to same-sex couples, continuing to allow victims who are undocumented immigrants to claim temporary visas and permitting Native American rape victims to prosecute their non-Indian assailants. The latest version in the House also would expand free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence and extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking. Republican House members remain opposed to these provisions.

Gandy, a former prosecutor of violent offenders, said government investment and funding had helped ensure more safety for women. “It’s money well spent and hugely increases coordination in communities to support victims, advocates, prosecutors and the courts.”

Liz Roberts, chief program officer of the New York-based victims’ services agency Safe Horizon, said the numbers are encouraging and a credit to domestic violence advocates, law enforcement and public and private funders.

“But domestic violence remains a serious and pervasive threat to the health and well-being of women and children in this country,” said Roberts. “For the reason of these findings, we urge all members of Congress to join together to pass the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act.”

One in every four women will suffer domestic violence in her lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Claire Mc Cormack is a reporter based in Dublin and New York.

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