In its Last Act of Failure, Congress Did Not Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

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The 112th Congress was officially replaced today, and good riddance. The legacy of this past Congress will be its staggering inability to get anything done. Prime case in point: The House let the Violence Against Women Act die.

This should be a no-brainer bill. No legislator campaigns on a pro-rape-and-domestic violence platform. And yet! Conservatives fought the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization because it beefed up domestic violence protections to two groups: undocumented immigrants and same-sex partners. The bill would allow abused immigrants to apply for temporary visas and includes LGBT partners in domestic violence programs.

As Obama said succinctly, "Rape is rape. It is a crime." Even if it's rape of a non-citizen or rape of a same-sex partner. The people who held up the Violence Against Women Act say some rape is more worthy of government prosecution than other rape. How can America claim a leader in democratic ideals if our representatives can't even agree that all rapes are equally worth addressing?

Politics can have slow and vague successes, but the Violence Against Women Act does clear and concrete good. It funds sexual assault response and prosecution training for 500,000 law enforcement officers, judges, and lawyers. It established a national domestic violence hotline that gets 22,000 calls a month. Since Joe Biden spearheaded its approval in 1994, the rate of partner violence has dropped 60 percent.

Washington Senator Patty Murray promises to reintroduce the act now that there's new Congress in session. Senator Murray's website hosts this depressing ticker—hopefully it will sway the new, more diverse, supposedly more-committed-to-getting-shit-done Congress to pass the act.

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