Last week marked the 20 year anniversary of a commitment Congress made to keep our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends safe from harm with the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Democrats and Republicans alike stood together to give a voice to those who had suffered in violent relationships, pledging to not stand idle in the face of domestic violence.
In the years since, VAWA has proven remarkably successful; victims of domestic violence are no longer forced to suffer in silence and the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped more than 60 percent since its passage. Thanks to VAWA, we have a strong network of available shelters and crisis centers and our law enforcement officers are better equipped to deal with the unique challenges victims of domestic violence face. Since VAWA passed, states have improved laws addressing violence against women and fewer people have experienced domestic violence.
Until Republicans took over the House in 2010, VAWA received overwhelming bipartisan support each time it came up for reauthorization. In the most recent reauthorization, Congress was only able to vote after a year and a half of delays by House Republicans. GOP leaders objected to important commonsense reforms that ensured LGBT, Native American, and immigrant women receive the protections they deserve. Despite over 500 days of partisan objections from House Republicans, President Obama was finally able to sign VAWA’s reauthorization in March of 2013.
Now, we are given another opportunity to pass legislation to help women as Congress considers the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ensure equal pay for equal work. Just last year, women earned on average 78 cents for every dollar a man made. Yet time and again it has been proven that when women succeed, American families succeed. Thus, it’s disheartening that in the face of such data, Senate Republicans voted this week against the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The Violence Against Women Act is a testament to the positive change Congress can effect. Leaders from both parties crossed the aisle to stand and affirm that violence has no place in a relationship, no matter the race or sexuality. It’s time to give up partisan ideologies and do what is best for our mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends whether regarding domestic violence or ensuring they are treated equally in the work place. We need to fulfill our promise to the American people by closing the pay gap.