The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) & Why Louisiana Needs It

A Brief History 

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 1994. This legislation sets baseline laws to protect survivors’ rights and fund programs for primary prevention, victim advocacy, and public safety.  VAWA covers sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, stalking, and sex trafficking.
VAWA funds primary prevention programs designed to stop violence before it occurs; survivor services community-based sexual assault and domestic violence service providers; training and advocates at law enforcement agencies and district attorneys offices; efforts to improve investigation and prosecution of sexual and domestic violence, and specialized programs in rural areas, campuses, tribal nations, and other communities.  The Office on Violence Against Women releases a report every two years covering the scope and impact of VAWA activities nationwide.  The 2014-16 report describes over 1 million services provided to survivors and their loved ones by community-based programs, over 2 million individuals trained in primary prevention and trauma-informed response, and over 66,000 arrests for these crimes.
VAWA’s strong non-discrimination policies – expanded in 2013 – protect survivors, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, immigration status, religion, income, or other factors.

VAWA’s Positive Impact on Louisiana

In 2016, Louisiana’s sexual assault and domestic violence centers, coalition agencies (LaFASA and LCADV), law enforcement agencies, district attorney’s offices, colleges and universities, and other stakeholders received over $5 million in funds for prevention, survivor services, and offender accountability.  In a state that allocates $0 for sexual assault prevention or services, this federal assistance is essential to keeping the doors open at local and statewide programs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 280,000 Louisiana women are raped over the course of their life, and 523,000 men and 509,000 women experience another form of sexual violence.  Every year, LaFASA and local sexual assault centers serve over 10,000 survivors and their loved ones through free and confidential hotline advocacy, individual and group counseling and therapy, forensic exam accompaniment, assistance navigating the criminal and civil legal systems, and other trauma-informed services.  In addition, they conduct thousands of prevention and outreach programs in schools, youth-serving organizations, places of worship, community meetings, and other venues.
VAWA also provides an accountability mechanism to ensure that local and state agencies operate using best practices for evidence collection, investigation, and prosecution. This oversight helps protect the privacy and safety rights of survivors and promotes survivors’ cooperation with law enforcement and prosecutors to make our communities safer.

VAWA in Jeopardy

VAWA’s standards of practice, oversight mechanisms, and funding are essential in the fight to end sexual violence, support survivors, and hold offenders accountable.  As the new administration sets its priorities for funding services and establishing/enforcing federal laws, we must be vigilant against attacks on programs like VAWA.  Recently, the Heritage Foundation released a budget blueprint, which the administraiton has indicated will guide its budget.  It proposed complete elimination of VAWA programs.

Louisiana currently allocates $0 to sexual assault prevention and victim services.  VAWA ensures that victims’ services and public safety are not caught in the crosshairs of Louisiana’s current state budget crisis. State agencies (like the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement) and designated organizations (like LaFASA) are able to allocate these life-saving resources to sexual assault crisis centers, law enforcement agencies, district attorney offices, culturally-specific organizations, and others. Quite simply, VAWA saves lives in Louisiana.

Saving VAWA

Contact your senators and representatives to let them know you support inclusive, robust, and well-funded legislation to prevent sexual violence, support survivors, and hold perpetrators accountable.  Find their contact information here.

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