VAWA Reauthorization a Top Priority for StudentsApril 24, 2012
College students are waiting for Congress to act to provide the resources needed to fight sexual assault on campuses. The U.S. Senate will likely debate the bipartisan Violence against Women Reauthorization Act (S. 1925) soon. VAWA represents a critical piece of legislation on domestic and sexual violence prevention and response nationwide, and the 2012 reauthorization draws necessary attention to college campuses.
The bill strives to ensure that schools report incidences of sexual violence and provide mandatory training on domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault for all incoming students, campus disciplinary boards, and law enforcement. These additions to VAWA are based on what we know goes on at college campuses — and what we know needs to be addressed so that everyone can take advantage of educational opportunities.
A 2007 campus sexual assault study by the National Institute of Justice found that 28.5 percent of college women surveyed were targets of attempted or completed sexual assault before or since they entered college. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network reports that college-age women are four times more likely than any other age group to face sexual assault. In addition, experts believe that rape and sexual assault are among the most underreported crimes.
Critics have claimed that VAWA’s provisions are overreaching, an accusation that is misplaced and damaging to the bill’s true intentions. The provisions simply focus on measures that hold universities accountable.
As a college student, I fully support VAWA’s efforts to ensure that universities do exactly what we need them to do: Spell out policies, conduct prevention training, ensure resources and assistance to victims, and report how often this is happening. AAUW fought hard for these provisions to be included in VAWA because our members understand that access to educational opportunities helps lead to financial security and economic independence. No one should have that opportunity taken away due to an unsafe environment.
VAWA reauthorization is a top priority in the AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign, a nonpartisan effort to mobilize women voters — especially millennial women. Tell your senators to reauthorize VAWA now!
This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Elizabeth Owens as part of the April 24 HERVotes blog carnival on the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act. AAUW belongs to the multi-organization HERVotes effort, which seeks to counter attacks on women’s health and economic security (HER).