"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Harris Law Firm rarely takes public political positions. Our firm is proudly built of a diverse group of citizens, and we respect every individual’s right and civic duty to support the political causes we each believe in.
However, we feel compelled to make an exception now. We call on the United States Congress, just commencing its 117th Session as of January 3rd, to immediately renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
VAWA is a federal program designed to curb domestic abuse in our country. It provides critical funding for programs in Denver and throughout Colorado that most people take for granted in our communities. In 2018, alone, VAWA provided over $7.4 million in funds to Colorado law enforcement, hospitals, DA’s offices, and nonprofits which run shelters and abuse hotlines.
Originally enacted in 1994, VAWA is perhaps the most important piece of federal legislation dealing with the scourge of domestic violence in our country. It provides essential funding for a wide variety of major federal initiatives, including protection for victims of abuse, funding for shelters and rape crisis centers, and coordination between the criminal and social services systems. Moreover, VAWA provides for “full faith and credit” for orders of protection between states.
According to the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the overall rate of intimate partner violence declined by 64% from 1994 to 2019. This is a trend which many attribute to the protections and awareness thru VAWA.
And, it is more critical today, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, than ever. Domestic violence statistics are often slow in reporting, and subject to many reporting jurisdictions. However, it is believed that domestic violence has spiked since the pandemic began in February. Indeed, all of the conditions which typically spur domestic violence are present – people being confined in close quarters, economic fallout, additional family stresses such as grave illness, etc. We have certainly seen the effects of this in our family law practice, and several law enforcement organizations and shelters are reporting this concerning trend.
Sadly, VAWA is today caught up in the partisan bickering that plagues so much of what is going on today in Washington, D.C. The original legislation, as well as every renewal of VAWA since (required every 5 years) passed with bipartisan support. In fact, the original legislation was co-sponsored by President-Elect, Joe Biden, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican.
There is no doubt that intelligent, well-meaning people can disagree. There may be legitimate arguments as to the scope of the funding, as well as which constituencies are most deserving of protection. However, to allow the entire program to expire because compromise cannot be reached would be irresponsible and, indeed, dangerous.
We thus call on Congress to renew the Violence Against Women Act, and to do so without further delay.
Collins, N., 2021. Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi To Draw On Their History In Bid To Unite Fractious Democrats. [online] WSJ. Available at: <https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-biden-nancy-pelosi-to-draw-on-their-history-in-bid-to-unite-fractious-democrats-11609506000> [Accessed 5 January 2021].
Denverpost.com. 2021. Shutdown Puts Colorado Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault Organizations' Funding At Risk. [online] Available at: <https://www.denverpost.com/2019/01/05/colorado-sexual-assault-domestic-violence-funding/> [Accessed 5 January 2021].
Dochler, J., 2021. Opinion: The Violence Against Women Act Is 26 Years Young And Still Going Strong. [online] The Missouri Times. Available at: <https://themissouritimes.com/opinion-the-violence-against-women-act-is-26-years-young-and-still-going-strong/> [Accessed 5 January 2021].
Usatoday.com. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/12/27/violence-against-women-soars-covid-19-crisis-congress-debates-law/4018548001/> [Accessed 5 January 2021].