Women in Ohio – and throughout the United States – deserve leaders who are willing to fight for them. Yet, a vital law that protects women has expired. Domestic violence affects women, families, and communities in major cities, small towns, and rural communities in our state.
More than 70,000 Ohioans made domestic dispute calls in 2010 – and 74 percent of the callers were women.
That is why the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is so important. VAWA – which is typically reauthorized with bipartisan support every five years – provides resources for local and state organizations to combat domestic, sexual, and psychological violence against women.
But last year, the law expired. And critical efforts that help women and their children protect themselves from domestic violence, stalking, and cyber-threats continue only on a short-term basis.
Failure to reauthorize VAWA would have devastating consequences for women, law enforcement, and communities in Ohio.
For women, VAWA resources mean the difference between struggling in silence and beginning the long road to emotional recovery with help from a strong support network. Women’s shelters and domestic violence centers would have trouble existing without VAWA. These are the very organizations that connect women with legal help, emergency housing, transportation, and lock services.
Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence State Director Katie Hanna recently shared a story with me from a woman who said, “as someone who was sexually abused I wish I had a program or someone to turn to besides being left to just deal with it.”
VAWA has also improved the criminal justice system’s ability to keep survivors safe and hold perpetrators accountable. Reauthorizing VAWA would invest in state grant programs – like the Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement Protection Orders program – that help law enforcement respond to sexual assault crimes.
For law enforcement officials like the 2011 Summit County Detective of the Year Vito Sinopoli, a Bath Township police officer, VAWA reauthorization means having the resources needed to train more than 850 police officers throughout Ohio and 20 prosecutors who are often among the first responders to domestic violence survivors.
Communities should not have to confront this national problem without national support.
That’s why I’m fighting to reauthorize VAWA in the Senate. The bill has bipartisan support, but it remains stalled in the Senate because some Washington politicans refuse to bring it to a vote. As a husband and father of daughters – and your Senator – I find this blatant inaction unacceptable.
Reauthorizing VAWA now would provide tools for law enforcement, survivor service providers, and court personnel to better identify and manage high risk offenders – and prevent domestic violence homicides. Immediate VAWA reauthorization would help with primary prevention programs so children grow up learning the importance of healthy and safe relationships.
Reauthorizing VAWA is long overdue.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.