LOCAL SPIN: Go F*** Yourselves, Ladies
That would be one way to read Republican actions.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Lost in the morass of partisan bickering over the fiscal cliff – Will they or won’t they? They will! With three minutes left to the deadline! – an important little fact for women, or anyone who knows women, went overlooked.
Congress, it seems, neglected to reauthorize funding for the Violence Against Women Act.
It would be cynical to suggest Congress’s failure to act on VAWA, as it has done every year since President Bill Clinton first signed it into law in 1994, had anything to do with the fact that Vice President Joe Biden wrote the bill while he was still a senator. I mean, the election was over in November, Biden’s boss won; surely the Republicans couldn’t still be holding on to their rage over that? (Nevermind that on Jan. 3, after Congress finally acted on the fiscal cliff, House Speaker John Boehner told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, “Go fuck yourself,” outside the Oval Office. Twice.)
Nobody’s ever accused me of being a romantic. It wouldn’t surprise me if Republicans, who were bloodied again and again during the campaign by their own stupidity when it came to matters like rape and reproductive rights, let VAWA die without a vote as a “Go fuck yourself” to women. And poor people of color. And gays.
VAWA is a tool that provides funding for investigation at the local level: $1.6 billion for investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and the imposition of automatic and mandatory restitution orders against people convicted of those crimes. It also gives women a way to file civil suits against their attackers in cases prosecutors won’t take.
But it also provided funding for educational programs. Half of the nonprofit Monterey County Rape Crisis Center’s budget – about $400,000 – comes from VAWA funding. And with that funding, according to center Executive Director Clare Mounteer, they’ve been able to assist 450-550 sexual-assault survivors a year, including those who don’t go the police for help. The center also provides education services to about 1,500 public high school students every year via “prevention clubs.” The money for that, about $100,000 annually, comes via VAWA funds.
“We’ve seen changes in student behavior as a result,” Mounteer says. “In this day and age, you see the horrible headlines everywhere. If we don’t take action to stop this stuff, it continues.”
Beyond Republicans being pissy because they can, there are deeper and more insidious reasons for their refusal to allow VAWA to come to a vote. One is that the Senate bill contains a new provision giving Native American tribes some authority to prosecute sexual-assault crimes on reservations, even if the crime is committed by a non-Indian. (As Feministing.com editor Chloe Angyal put it, “If you’re a non-Native American man who beats up, sexually assaults or even kills a Native American woman on tribal land, you’ll get away with it. That’s because tribal courts do not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian defendants.”)
The Senate bill also contains provisions to include same-sex couples in funded programs for domestic violence, and would extend temporary visas to immigrants who are victims of sexual or domestic violence.
Mounteer won’t talk about the politics behind the stall. But she says that while Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, supports the act, there’s no harm in reaching out to him and all members of California’s delegation to remind them, on behalf of all victims, to carry the water on this one.
The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women recommends that on Jan. 19, a National Day of Service, people volunteer their time at and/or make a donation to places like the Rape Crisis Center.
Mounteer says the center has VAWA funding through March, but if the act isn’t reauthorized by then, things will start to get dicey. “We don’t know what to expect,” she says. “We need to send the message to legislators that this indecision is causing some scare, and what it will mean in terms of the inability to provide services.”
The center’s 28th annual “Together with Love” 5-10K walk-and-run fundraiser happens Feb. 10. Mounteer says it’s a great family event, with raffle prizes, a special kids’ race and other related events along a course that starts at Lovers Point and goes to Asilomar and back. The center is hoping to raise $30,000 from it.
I tell Mounteer she should cheer up. If Congress botches this one and fails to do the right thing, maybe we can hold a bake sale to help the Rape Crisis Center make up the lost funding.
“It would have to be many bake sales,” she says.
MARY DUAN is the Weekly’s editor. Reach her at email@example.com or follow her at twitter.com/maryrduan