Voice Your Support for VAWA

Imagine you, your child, your parent, your sibling, your spouse, or someone you love were physically or sexually assaulted (as happened to over 5 million people in the United States in 2015). Would you be fine with the responding officers having no training in the type of assault experienced? Would you know your rights and be able to advocate for them on your own? Could you afford to pay for missed work, legal fees, hospital bills, and any therapy or follow-up treatments? Would you permit that no action be taken to prevent future assaults to you and others?

For most of us, the answers to these questions are “No!”

News stories have been circulating claiming that a proposal has been made to eliminate the Office on Violence Against Women including all 25 of the grant programs they manage. The grants, which were established in the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), go to organizations like Wild Iris working to prevent domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and elder abuse. They also support survivors of assault in the form of transitional housing, legal aid, medical aid, and training to civil and criminal justice systems. Many are specifically targeted at protecting child victims, women with disabilities, and victims who live in rural areas.

Many people believe that victims of sexual assault and domestic violence have done something wrong to end up victims of these crimes, but this is far from true.

Sexual assault and domestic violence do not discriminate. They occur across all religions, races, socioeconomic classes, genders, education levels, and ages. Predators of assault often use “grooming” techniques where they make their victims feel safe and cared about before they assault them. Then, they invoke fear or brainwash their victims into believing the assault was the victim’s fault. Moreover, there are very real threats made to harm to the victim, their family, children, and pets should the victim decide to disclose the abuse or leave the relationship.

There are many barriers to leaving an abusive relationship. The reality is that the most dangerous time for a victim is when he or she leaves the abusive partner; 75% of domestic violence related homicides occur once the victim has left, and there is a 75% increase of violence upon separation for at least two years. This is why it is so important to have well trained staff in the criminal justice system and why services through non-profits like Wild Iris are vital. Cuts to these essential programs will leave the most vulnerable with nowhere to turn for protection.

Wild Iris is taking a proactive approach to publicly voice our support for continued funding of these invaluable grants and programs. Not only do they allow us to serve hundreds of victims in our community every year, but they allow agencies like ours to serve millions of victims across the United States. Funding for the prevention of violence and services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault is more than a budgetary issue, it is a life and death issue.

Since VAWA was enacted in 1994, gender based violence across the United States has decreased by almost two-thirds. Without the funding provided by this Act, sexual assault and domestic violence crimes may well increase again. Imagine if Wild Iris no longer had funding for a 24-hour crisis line or for emergency shelter services. Wild Iris receives thousands of hotline calls every year; all of those calls would go unanswered.

Wild Iris is asking members of our community, from every political affiliation, to stand with us to protect funding for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Please call or write your senators and representatives to let them know you support the invaluable programs provided by Wild Iris and our community partners which are made possible by funding from the Office on Violence Against Women.

Senator Diane Feinstein
2500 Tulare Street, Suite 4290
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: (559) 485-7430 / (202) 224-3841
Fax: (559) 485-9689
senator (at) feinstein.senate.gov

Representative Paul Cook
1222 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 224-3841