I'm holding my breath. Yesterday, 4/26/2012 the Senate passed the reauthorization of the VAWA act. VAWA stands for Violence against WOMEN. It was instituted in 1995, and was reauthorized in 2000 and again in 2005. So, we must have enough data now to know that this act has helped the millions of women who have experienced domestic violence and can say that it is working. Or is it?
First of all, VAWA funds are given in large sums to non-profit corporations; VAWA does not ensure that the victims of domestic violence ever receive services, so most of the funds go to the salaries of Executive Directors and others within those organizations. VAWA can only base its effectiveness on so-called decreasing numbers of domestic violence incidents. And where do they get those numbers anyway? From reports from law enforcement for one. Maybe the numbers of reports are going down because we are regressing back to an attitude of "put up, and shut up" of our mother's day and age, because the word is out that when we stand up and speak out we get battered again by systems that coerce us into being helpless victims. We want to be survivors!
So VAWA funds are now awaiting the passage by the House of Representatives. Several congress members are submitting amendments that they hope will be considered. The current VAWA has additions that have not been considered in the past. We will now take VAWA funds and give some of them to LGBT groups, they are the lesbians, gay, bisexuals and transexuals who have experienced violence. Another piece of the funds will go to Native American tribes to prosecute non-natives that come to the reservation and commit violence against their women. Still another piece of the pie will go to funding to increase immigrant visas of those who come here and experience domestic violence. So what's left will be for the women who are victims and need services. Does it really matter anyway, because no one is watching where these funds go to and how they are really used. That is called accountability, or otherwise known as "Quality Assurance;" this is a program that measures whether or not we have done what we have said we are going to do when we started a program to help victims. Most victims know that they fill out paperwork each time they present themselves to a program of assistance; this is how a local shelter can say they have provided services to victims. Yet it is only a number, the outcomes are not defined and not measured. Most victims will tell you that they are LEFT BEHIND. The provision of shelter, food and clothing is only temporary and in some states the victims are lucky to get those meager provisions. So where does all the funding go?
Funding goes to hotlines, like the National Abuse Hotlines or the National Domestic Violence Hotlines. When you call they will refer you to another hotline or give you information about violence and abuse, then send you on your way. Other funds are being given to organizations that run websites that sound good, but do nothing for victims. A victim knows what abuse is. Victims don't need to be educated about abuse. Victims need survival support, legal defense, jobs that can support their children, and protection of their children from further abuse.
Another scam of non-profit organizations is safety planning. They all tell you if you are being abused, get out. They provide you with a cell phone so that you can call 911 if your abuser comes at you. This sounds real good, but try to maintain a restraining order against your abuser in the courts before your abuser hits you again, it won't happen if the abuser has no current charges against them for abuse. At the local prosecuting District Attorney's offices they pick and choose which cases to take to court. So even if a victim reports the abuse, nothing may happen. So the safety plans that shelters purport to provide to assist the victims do not necessarily help.
VAWA funds are being purported as the Magic Carpet Ride out of abusive situations, but in the reality of our current implementation of programs the victims are really just becoming the rugs to be stepped on again. Maybe these special interest groups need to submit their own bills, or we could increase the funds of VAWA, change the name to be Victims of Violence and include everybody under the umbrella. What say you?