Advocacy Matters: Just Look at VAWA

September 11, 2014

When the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) passed in 2013, we cheered along with advocates across the country. The act, which updated the existing VAWA, extended basic protections and services to more survivors than ever and brought attention and support to underserved groups. And AAUW was on the front line to make it happen.

But it wasn’t an easy battle. The act almost didn’t pass, and the two-year struggle behind it showed just how many people did not understand or flat-out didn’t support ending violence against women. Sometimes an activist’s most important job is to raise problems to national attention: No update to VAWA would have meant no new steps to end sexual violence on campus; and if you were gay, Native American, or an immigrant, the existing law would have continued to overlook you.

It took persistent pressure from grassroots and national advocacy groups to force Congress to pass the bill. Our Lobby Corps team was on the Hill to talk to lawmakers about the importance of the update. AAUW members in every state fought for VAWA’s campus safety improvements. We teamed up with other organizations to spread the word, and online activists came out in droves. Finally, it worked.

Advocacy is powerful. And each time we push for change, we chip away at the barriers and misconceptions still standing in the way of women and girls. As President Barack Obama said about VAWA, which originally passed in 1994, “It didn’t just change the rules; it changed our culture.” Of course it’s a triumph to know that women are safer at home, at school, and in the streets. But perhaps just as important, VAWA has changed public attitudes around domestic violence and sexual assault, and our society is better for it. We activists had a tangible role in making that change.

We’re proud to have so many of your passionate, dedicated voices in the AAUW community. Let’s continue to show that women’s voices (and those of our allies) are powerful. Because standing up for women makes the world better for everyone.

 


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Kathryn Bibler By:   |   September 11, 2014