Vail Valley Voices: Act supporting women hung up
May 5, 2012
Last week was National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. It was established by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
The week is celebrated to honor victims and bring light to the negative effect of crime on local communities.
While the week was acknowledged throughout Colorado, the message has been lost on our politicians in Washington, D.C.
The Violence Against Women Act was passed by Congress with bipartisan support in 1994. The act provided funds to support the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women and provided additional avenues for those victims to seek redress.
It also established the Office of Violence Against Women to reduce violence against women in domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
Since passage of the act, homicides resulting from intimate relationships have fallen 30 percent and domestic violence has fallen 60 percent.
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The act has been deemed successful on many fronts.
It was reauthorized by Congress again in 2000 and 2005, again with broad bipartisan support and little opposition. It was generally considered that Congress rubber stamped renewal of the act, as it was such an effective and important piece of legislation.
However, that has changed this election year. As we have come to expect from our leaders in Washington, this act became mired in partisanship.
Democrats in Congress are seeking to expand the act’s provisions to include same-sex couples, illegal immigrants and Native American tribes. They labeled Republicans, who now oppose the amended version of the act, as “antiwoman.”
Republicans accused the Democrats of using these amendments as a political ploy in an election year and stated that these amendments will dilute the original purpose of the act.
As is usually the case, both sides have some valid points. However, whatever merit either side’s position may have will be lost in the partisan rhetoric of an election year.
Regardless of your position on these amendments or your political affiliation, the fact remains that failure of Congress to renew this legislation could endanger victims and extinguish many of the gains that have been made in the past 18 years.
It is fitting that as it was National Crime Victims’ Week, the bill did pass the Senate last week. The House has not yet voted.
I urge you to contact your representative in Washington and tell them to pass the Violence Against Women Act, whether it be in the original form or with amendments.
The only way the vision of victims’ rights can be extended to everybody is if they can set aside politics and do what must be done.
Assistant District Attorney Scott Turner, a Summit County Republican, is running for district attorney of the 5th Judicial District.