Lawmakers have extended the Violence Against Women Act for a few more weeks thanks to Friday’s continuing resolution to temporarily reopen the federal government.
The landmark legislation expired in late December due to the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which lasted 35 days before President Donald Trump on Friday announced he would reopen the government until Feb. 15. The shutdown also delayed payments to some VAWA-funded programs under the Justice Department.
“What kind of country allows its Violence Against Women Act to expire?” actor and Me Too activist Alyssa Milano tweeted last month.
VAWA, created with the help of then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), protects survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The law passed in 1994 with an unprecedented number of women in Congress, two years after Anita Hill’s testimony at Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
VAWA was reauthorized in 2000, 2005 and 2013 with bipartisan support. It was set to expire last year before receiving two short-term extensions in September and early December, creating a setback for lawmakers and activists working toward the law’s long-term reauthorization.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said last week, according to The Washington Post, that he would complete a long-term reauthorization by working with other lawmakers, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who is facing scrutiny over allegations that she fired someone who planned to sue her nonprofit over an alleged sexual assault. Jackson Lee, who has helped lead the effort in keeping VAWA alive, denied to the Post that she acted in retaliation.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime in the United States.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate both passed budget agreements before the shutdown that would have covered the costs of VAWA programs through Feb. 8. But the legislation expired due to the shutdown, which affected several government agencies and 800,000 federal workers.
The shutdown was largely due to a stalemate between Trump and congressional leaders over his wanting $5.7 billion to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He eventually lifted the shutdown without wall funding in hopes of using the next three weeks to come up with a deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who vehemently oppose a wall.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.