Students should support Violence Against Women Act reauthorization

The Northern Star Editorial Board urges students to contact their legislators immediately to ensure the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which will expire Sept. 30 without action.

VAWA, passed in 1994 by Bill Clinton, aims to support abused women and provide legal help to them, according to the Legal Monument, History of VAWA webpage. The passing of VAWA marked the first comprehensive federal legislative package designed to end violence against women. In addition to providing services and resources, VAWA improves education and training about violence against women for victim advocates, health professionals, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges.

To renew the act, the public needs to show support for its passing by contacting their state legislator. Students should contact senators Richard Durbin or Tammy Duckworth. Students should call the legislators and voice their support for the act, saying they would like their representative to endorse it as the deadline for reauthorization approaches.

Reported sex crimes on American college campuses, including sexual assault, rape and fondling, increased 205 percent between 2001 and 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.These statistics show sex crimes are a prominent issue on college campuses and survivors of these crimes should have access to the resources VAWA provides.

At NIU, in 2014 there were 14 domestic violence offenses, four dating violence offenses and five stalking offenses. In 2016, domestic violence offenses decreased to three accounts, however, dating violence increased to 31 accounts and stalking increased to nine accounts, according to the NIU Clery Act Crime Statistics in the 2017-2018 Annual Safety and Security Report.

“Knowing how much of a problem [domestic and sexual violence] is, we can’t say that things are better,” Lynneh Erickson Laskowski, Director of Prevention and Communication at Safe Passage, which is DeKalb’s only domestic violence and rape center, said, “If we get rid of VAWA, we are saying we don’t care about the issues that face women, and I know that isn’t the message anyone wants to send.”

The Editorial Board wants to stress the importance of VAWA renewal to students. The act provides legislation to help victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, dating violence and other forms of abuse. While students may not be directly affected, the renewal of VAWA is crucial to dismantling rape culture.

The enactment of VAWA created the Office of Violence Against Women, the department in charge of enforcing the act that investigates and prosecutes violent crimes against women, readresses cases that may not have been properly prosecuted, as well as restitution of those convicted.

“VAWA was a really important step forward as a culture for us to say that we recognize [domestic violence] is a very serious issue, and we are actually going to put our money where our mouth is and support survivors,” Erickson Laskowski said.

During 2000 and 2005 reauthorizations, the act expanded to address sexual assault and stalking. In 2000, there was also the addition of a section dedicated to helping battered immigrants seeking shelter from abusive situations. This aid was further extended to all colored, tribal and immigrant people in 2005, according to the Legal Monument, History of VAWA webpage.

“Its [2018 reauthorization] adds provisions to the current law, such as expanded programs for youth education and prevention,” according to a July 26 CNN article. “It also toughens protections for victims using housing grants, and it establishes a Violence Against Women director position in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.”

The Editorial Board strongly encourages students to get involved in government processes and help get the act reauthorized by contacting legislators. This act’s renewal would allow for continued resources and funding for victims of sexual crimes, something extremely important given the political climate of the nation.