This article went to press in January 2013. A February 2013 update is at the bottom.
2012 marked the year that violence against women became a partisan issue. The Violence Against Women Act, passed in 1994, was the first comprehensive federal effort to combat such violence. The landmark law strengthened the legal response to domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, as well as directed critical funding toward services for survivors. Over the years, it's provided more than $4 billion to local governments and nonprofits to support programs like rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and legal assistance for survivors.
The VAWA has always enjoyed bipartisan support, but the law was allowed to expire for the first time ever when the 112th Congress wrapped up last January without reauthorizing it.
For Native women, the answer has clearly been “no.” But the Senate's bill is a step in the right direction, and now it's up to the 113th Congress to pass it. If they're serious about making the VAWA work for all women, any compromise on the tribal provision should be off the table.
Update, Feb 14 2013:
The Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill was quickly re-introduced in the new Congress. The new bill, which was passed by the Senate in a 78-22 vote on February 12, 2013, is largely the same as last year's but, in a procedural concession to the House GOP, does not include the proposed increase in U visas for undocumented immigrants. Now it's again up to the House to approve it—and again the main sticking point seems to be the provision adding protections for Native American women. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is in negotiations with Vice President Biden, but it's unclear when an agreement will be reached—or what it will look like. Meanwhile, some House Republicans, no doubt recognizing that holding up the VAWA is not the best look for their party, are now voicing their support for finally getting it done. Follow the Save Wįyąbi Project for more on how Native women are fighting violence.