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  • Writer's picturewestvirginianow

Our Response to Mooney, McKinley and Miller for Voting NO on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

It was more than disappointing to read that all three West Virginia representatives in Congress voted against the Violence Against Women Act. The Act did pass the House of Representatives by a vote of 263 to 158. Among the yeahs were 33 Republicans who listened to their conscience and voted in favor.

Unfortunately, West Virginia Representatives McKinley, Mooney and Miller were not one of the more courageous Republicans. It especially gives me pause to consider that Carol Miller, a woman, could not bring herself to vote in favor.

The Violence Against Women Act was first passed in September 1994 and has been through several reauthorizations which changed some provisions of the original law. The law was a result of the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 in Vienna and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the same year. The Vienna Conference and the following Declaration concluded that civil society and governments have acknowledged that domestic violence is a public health policy and human rights concern.

According to the United States National Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Survey of 2010, 1 in 6 women suffered some kind of sexual violence by their intimate partner during the course of their lives. Sexual violence and assault continues to be in the news on a daily basis.

This is an issue that continues to be highly relevant in our world today. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was developed and passed as a result of extensive grassroots efforts in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with advocates and professionals from the battered women's movement, sexual assault advocates, victim services field, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors' offices, the courts, and the private bar urging Congress to adopt significant legislation to address domestic and sexual violence .

The National Organization for Women including its West Virginia chapters were pioneers in addressing domestic violence and sexual assault in West Virginia. One of the greatest successes of VAWA was its emphasis on a coordinated community response to domestic violence, sex dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The courts, law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services, and the private bar now work together in a coordinated effort that did not exist before at the state and local levels. VAWA also supports the work of community-based organizations that are engaged in work to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

This year, the VAWA was again up for reauthorization. It stirred controversy by including a provision seeking to provide stronger protections, notably closing what some called the "boyfriend loophole." One of these provisions would strip stalkers, current or former boyfriends or dating partners convicted of domestic abuse of their firearms. Domestic abusers are currently prohibited from buying or owning a firearm if they've ever been married to the victim, lived together or had a child together. A dangerous ex-boyfriend or a dating partner was added to this definition as part of the new amendments.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed the expansion of the Act, saying that the offenses that could qualify as domestic abuse are "too broad and ripe for abuse" to extend the provision to stalkers, boyfriends and dating partners. We expect the NRA to lobby for profits for gun manufacturers by working to make the USA the most heavily armed nation in the world. But we don’t expect our representatives in Congress to care more about profits of gun manufacturers than its own citizens.

West Virginia NOW would like to hear from Representatives McKinley, Mooney and Miller to explain their vote. Or should we just expect that the interests of the NRA will always trump the interests of law-abiding citizens among Republicans in West Virginia. We hope that when this bill appears before the Senate, Senators Capito and Manchin will have more courage.

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