The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a 9% increase in calls between March 16 – when many states issued lockdown orders – and May 16 compared with the same period in 2019. An increase in domestic violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic has renewed the push to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It’s a huge problem and it’s really increased the urgency that everybody in Congress should have to pass this. This is an issue that is long overdue, and the excuses from the GOP about why they cannot reauthorize this critical piece of legislation have run out a long time ago. It is time to act in a comprehensive manner to help make sure that everyone is safe from domestic violence.
The act has been updated and reauthorized three times – in 2000, 2005, and 2015. Updates over the years have had bipartisan backing and included new programs to protect elderly and disabled women; mandatory funding for rape prevention and education; new protections for victims of trafficking, undocumented immigrants, and Native American women; and expanded language to be inclusive to the LGBTQ community.
The bill, introduced by then-Sen. Biden was first signed into law in 1994, to address domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking through legislation. At the time, those crimes were considered family matters, which law enforcement authorities tended to not get involved in.
After the measure became law, the overall rate of intimate partner violence declined by 64% from 1994 to 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. In more recent years, there has been a 42% increase in such cases from 2016 to 2018, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ victory has given hope to victims and advocates who say their prior work on domestic violence is promising. We’re really optimistic that they’ll actually put political weight behind these issues, that they’re actually committed to ending violence against women and children. Congress needs to speak out strongly against (domestic violence), not just through words, but through legislative action.