Congress failed to reauthorize VAWA before the September 30, 2018, deadline by not taking action on H.R. 6545, a bill introduced by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee to reauthorize VAWA. Instead, Congress voted to pass a continuing resolution. Many interpreted this as a ploy to allow Congress to avoid taking meaningful action until after the midterm elections.
While understanding the seriousness of this failure, it is important to also remember that only the grants funded under VAWA expire and require reauthorization. The amendments and new federal laws established under VAWA, including special tribal jurisdiction, the habitual offender provision, and similar provisions do not require reauthorization and are permanent.
Many are asking if funding for VAWA is secure and the answer is yes but only for the time being. VAWA grant programs are currently funded through December 7 as part of the continuing resolution (CR). The CR extended VAWA’s authorization for 10 weeks. If VAWA is reauthorized by December 7, or by another CR, VAWA funding will continue to be available.
“We, as a social justice movement, are challenged to organize, educate, and inform Congress of the lifesaving programs supported by VAWA,” said Lucy Simpson, Executive Director, NIWRC. “VAWA is essential to the everyday safety of Native women and their children. We call on Congress to work together to pass a bipartisan bill that strengthens the nation’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking—one that is inclusive of American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages.”
Much work remains to be done in the 10 short weeks before December 7. The VAWA Reauthorization Act, H.R. 6545, needs many more supporters to reauthorize VAWA this year. H.R. 6545 can only be enacted through strong bipartisan support, and currently it lacks Republican supporters. Now is the time for all those concerned about the safety of Native women and all other victims of domestic, sexual, and other crimes under VAWA to organize at the tribal, local, regional, and national levels.
“Those seeking safety need the changes included in H.R. 6545 to prevent further violence,” said Caroline LaPorte, NIWRC Senior Native Affairs Advisor. “We need all of the new proposals that are included in H.R. 6545 like the housing protections, protection from abusers with guns, justice for survivors on tribal land, and increased prevention funding. These changes we hope will save lives.”
Steps you can take to help reauthorize VAWA
First, call your representative. VAWA has always been bipartisan, if your congress member is not a sponsor, please send this simple message:
We need the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized now. Survivors can’t wait for lifesaving responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced H.R. 6545, moderate legislation reauthorizing VAWA that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle can support. Please co-sponsor this legislation today!
Second, work to inform your tribe about the importance of reauthorizing VAWA and organize to pass a tribal resolution supporting H.R. 6545. Members of Congress are more likely to support VAWA reauthorization if they understand the importance of VAWA to Indian tribes and their constituents. Meet with local tribal council members to inform them of the importance of your tribe supporting reauthorization of VAWA.
Third, organize locally to host community actions in support of the reauthorization of VAWA. If you’re part of an organization that cares about VAWA, such as a local shelter, women’s resource center, or elder’s group, organize local actions to support the reauthorization of VAWA. A community walk, vigil, or rally are important awareness activities. In addition, writing letters or meeting with your representative in your local district office will help inform your members of Congress why reauthorization of VAWA is important to the local community.
Important Reforms for Indian Tribes Included in the VAWA Reauthorization Act, H.R. 6545
H.R. 6545 provides many lifesaving reforms for communities across the United States. It includes changes to laws, increased resources, and increased awareness. For Native women, tribal communities, and Indian tribes, these changes are essential and needed immediately. H.R. 6545 provides the following changes and many more:
- Builds on successes of the VAWA 2013 provision that reaffirms inherent tribal authority to prosecute certain non-Indian domestic violence offenders by offering the same protections for victims of sexual violence, stalking, trafficking, child abuse, and assaults against law enforcement or justice personnel.
- Creates a $3 million authorization for DOJ’s Tribal Access Program (TAP), which facilitates direct tribal access to the federal criminal information database system.
- Incorporates the provisions included in Savanna’s Act (S. 1942/H.R. 4485), which is bipartisan legislation pending in both the House and the Senate aimed at improving the response to cases of missing and murdered Native people.
- Creates a federal criminal penalty for certain violations of tribal exclusion orders.
VAWA 2018 Tweets:
Add New Ones That Raise Your Issues
Violence doesn’t discriminate and neither should our laws! [@YourRepresentative], support #VAWA18 and ensure Native women have access to justice! #VAWA18
I support full protections for Native women! [@YourRepresentative], now is the time to reauthorize #VAWA18
Safety for Native women! [@YourRepresentative], act to stop the violence by reauthorizing #VAWA4All.
Native women can’t wait for lifesaving responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking. [@YourRepresentative], now is the time to reauthorize #VAWA4All.
All people deserve to lead violence-free lives. Congress has a duty to uphold this right! #VAWA18.