Do you hear what I hear? Listen close... closer... It is the sound of silence. Silent is what the House Republican leadership has been regarding the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Their silence is deafening.
During the 112th Congress, we missed a critical opportunity to reauthorize VAWA. While Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor sought to pacify women with a watered down version of VAWA, the Senate managed to pass -- with a strong bipartisan vote -- a VAWA bill that reflected many important improvements requested by our nation's domestic violence service providers, law enforcement, advocates, and others who fought long and hard for their "best practices" to be incorporated. For example, the bill added new housing protections for victims, campus sexual assault provisions, and enhanced services and programs for tribal, immigrant and LGBT victims of violence as well as communities of color.
Now as we begin the 113th Congress, Republicans in the House remain as quiet as church mice on VAWA. This week the Senate is set to pass their version of the Violence Against Women Act with bipartisan support. This bill is nearly identical to the House version that I along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers introduced two weeks ago. In the Senate, this legislation has bipartisan co-sponsorship. In the House, 193 Democrats have signed onto VAWA, but unfortunately, not a single Republican has joined us in sponsoring what has historically been a bipartisan piece of legislation.
Recent reports that VAWA is "dead" are untrue. VAWA's authorization expired over a year ago, but its programs and services continue to operate under language last updated in 2005. Still, VAWA's current form is in serious need of the updates and enhancements suggested by the domestic violence and sexual assault community. We must continue to fight for funds for VAWA through the appropriations process. Additionally, we must work to ensure that the sequester does not take effect at the end of this month as these cuts would be incredibly harmful to the program -- particularly at the state and local level.
So what now? Will House Republicans speak up for the wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, friends, even colleagues and pass the VAWA reauthorization that incorporates greatly needed improvements? Or will they remain silent, forcing victims to continue to wait for help that, at this rate, may be a long time coming? As a survivor of domestic violence I can say that every time we remain silent, we become complicit in the ongoing violence that affects women across this country. And that is simply unacceptable.
If House Republicans are content to continue to press the mute button when it comes to women's issues, then we must raise our voices even louder to speak out on behalf of our sisters who are plagued by domestic violence and ensure that VAWA does not get lost in the shuffle.
Domestic violence is a cancer that pervades our communities and our homes. No woman should ever feel afraid in her own neighborhood or home. No woman should ever have to endure the physical and psychological pain of domestic violence. Yet, too many women continue to live in fear. And that is why we must reauthorize -- and strengthen -- the Violence Against Women Act, and we must do it now!
It's time for the GOP to break their silence and stand up for women -- our future depends on it.