The Violence Against Women Act Just Expired

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) officially expired at midnight last Friday due to the partial government shutdown that is now in its sixth day. 

“Don’t let this go unnoticed: the Violence Against Women Act, which helps survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault, expired with the government shutdown,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted on Sunday, adding, “It’s deeply concerning.” 

Actor and Me Too activist Alyssa Milano added her disappointment, tweeting: “What kind of country allows its Violence Against Women Act to expire?”

The landmark legislation, which protects domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, was set to expire on Sept. 30 and later on Dec. 7, but was given short-term extensions each time. Prior to the shutdown, both the House and Senate passed budget agreements that would cover the costs of VAWA programs through Feb. 8, 2019.

The shutdown, however, which is affecting over 800,000 federal workers, forced VAWA to expire because the law’s programs are funded under the Justice Department. The legislation’s expiration does not affect all of its programs’ operations, according to The Washington Post. Grants already awarded before the shutdown will not be affected, but future payments for anti-domestic and anti-sexual violence programs funded by VAWA will be cut off until the legislation is reauthorized. 

What kind of country allows its Violence Against Women Act to expire?
Alyssa Milano, actress & activist

“The Violence Against Women Act ― which supports critical programs to help victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse, and stalking ― expired at midnight. We could have funded it, but @realDonaldTrump would rather shut down the government for a wall that doesn’t make us any safer,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted on Saturday. 

The government shutdown has continued due to a larger budget debate about President Donald Trump’s desired U.S.-Mexico border wall, which he campaigned on. Trump has recently asked for a $5 billion budget to build a concrete wall running along the southern border, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) continue to balk at a number that high.

VAWA, the first federal legislation to recognize and address domestic violence as a serious crime, was created with the help of then-Sen. Joe Biden (D) and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The legislation was reauthorized in 2000, 2005 and 2013 with bipartisan support. 

“VAWA has always been, and must always be, a bipartisan commitment to improve access to safety and justice, to prevent future violence, and to uphold the dignity and autonomy of all victims and survivors,” the National Task Force To End Sexual And Domestic Violence said in a statement published at the beginning of October, after the first short-term budget extension was awarded. 

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