By Sophia Giberson, JWI Intern
On January 22nd Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Michael Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 47, a bill in the Senate that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) introduced H.R. 11, an identical bill in the House. VAWA was first passed in 1994 to protect victims of dating violence, sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Due to the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault, this legislation should be a priority in the 113th Congress. Violence against women is widespread among women of all ages throughout the United States. According to a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 women will be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Many blame this high rate of sexual assault on the victim, which leaves the victim embarrassed, ashamed, and fearful of the outside world.
My second year of college a close friend confided in me a story that changed her life forever. It was her second week of school and she was working closely with the baseball team as she was always interested in sports and staying active. One day after practice, she and friend decided to go to a party and meet up with some of the baseball players to get to know more people on campus. After having one drink, she found herself on the ground of a parking lot being raped by the two men. She was sexually abused by men she thought she trusted. After the incident, she fell into a deep depression, and was blamed by her friends for having too much to drink, when in fact she had barely consumed any alcohol.
This traumatic and life-threatening experience led her to become a driven social activist for preventing violence against women and girls. After suffering through the violent act of rape, she sought to prevent girls from experiencing what had happened to her by giving workshops and is now working for an organization dedicated to preventing human trafficking.
The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, which is included in the VAWA reauthorization bills, seeks to address violence women face on college campuses. The Campus SaVE Act requires that incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking be disclosed in annual campus crime statistic reports, expanding what campuses currently need to make public In addition, the act improves campus support for those who experience sexual violence.
The act of rape is intolerable and we must do all we can to prevent it from happening to women of all ages. My friend’s story is all too common. Men and women on college campuses should be educated about domestic and sexual violence and victims need basic protections. Congress should pass the Violence Against Women Act without further delay.