Violence Against Women Act Blocked

While everyone is social distancing (?), wearing masks when out, and staying at home (mostly); there has been an uptick in women and men not getting along together well when confined to apartments or homes. No place to go and the heart may not grow fonder of your-other when confined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Domestic violence surges during mandatory lockdowns

USA Today: The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a 9% increase from 2019 in calls between May 16 in 2020. During that period many states declared lockdowns.

The San Antonio Police Department received 18% more calls related to family violence March 2020 compared to March 2019, the New York City Police Department experienced a 10% increase in domestic violence reports over the same period, and the Portland Police recorded a 22% increase in arrests YOY in March related to domestic violence.  

Review of Act History

The Violence Against Women Act (#VAWA)  initially expired in late 2018 because of a government shutdown. It was briefly renewed by the bill reopening the government, but it expired again in February 2019. While the House passed a reauthorization bill in April 2019 with some updated provisions, GOP senators stalled a vote. Senator Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) was the sole Republican co-sponsor of the Act.

House Closes Boyfriend Loophole

The most recent version of the bill passed by the House last year intended to close the “boyfriend loophole,” which proved to be a large point of contention for many Republicans. 

Previous versions of the act barred those convicted of domestic violence or abuse from purchasing and owning a gun if they were married to, lived with, or had a child with the victim. The 2019 amendment also hoped to extend the provision to include dating partners and stalkers. 

The Violence Against Women Act (#VAWA) is stalled in the Senate

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been blocking bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (#VAWA) for 633 days.

It is still stalled (whata surprise) due to the incorporation of the closing of the loophole on Boyfriends being able to purchase weapons. A Republican bill sponsored by Joni Ernest excluded the loophole as well immigrant, LGBTQ, and Native American survivors, which some Republicans had supported. Meanwhile the NRA has extended its influence over both chambers by threatening to not to support candidates. 

And President Joe Biden?

1994 and then Sen. Biden introduced the bill which was signed into law in 1994. The legislation was to address domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. At the time, those crimes were considered family matters and law enforcement authorities avoided involvement.

President-elect Joe Biden declared he would fight to renew the act that expired in 2019. He faces a tough challenge if Republicans keep control of the Senate after Georgia’s runoff elections next month. But an increase in domestic violence calls and arrests across the country may put pressure on Senate Republicans and McConnell to restart reauthorization efforts.