VAWA & the Fundamental Rights of All Survivors
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) lays out the fundamental rights that all survivors of domestic violence deserve. It defines how states should develop programming, policies and laws that support survivors on their jobs, in their homes, with their children and for their safety. All areas that are necessary for survivors to move forward from intimate partner violence are included in the Act. Some of the components of VAWA that provide critical protection to victims of domestic violence include temporary protection orders, the removal of weapons owned by the abuser and safe housing.
Similar to the initial lack of enforcement of the Civil Rights Act by some states, we are seeing some of the same lack of enforcement and lessened protection with the Violence Against Women Act. In states such as Illinois, the Violence Against Woman Act is fully enforced. Intimate partner violence survivors, as well as domestic violence advocates, are able to access the full spectrum of services and state policy, creating strong protection and enforcement. Georgia has not fully enacted all components of the Violence Against Women Act, leaving gaps in the protection and services available for Georgia’s domestic violence survivors. One of the components still to be put into Georgia law is job protection for domestic violence survivors in the workplace. Every employer should have policies in place that protect survivors from losing their jobs due to domestic violence. Abusers may unexpectedly show up to a survivor’s job, disrupting the daily operations of a company. It is critical that the survivor not be fired because of the abuser's actions. Another critical policy is the removal of firearms from the possession of someone convicted of a family violence offense or under a TPO. Georgia does not have a state law enforcing this. Domestic Violence victims are up to 500% more likely to be killed when there is a firearm in the home. To ensure that VAWA provides full protection for all survivors across the nation, we must work to make every part of the Violence Against Women Act completely enforced across this nation.
Unfortunately, something as simple as the kindergarten rule of “Keep Your Hands to Yourself!” has yet to be learned and embraced by many. Because of this, the Violence Against Women Act is absolutely necessary to save lives. We can never go back to the day when it was legal for a husband to beat his wife with a stick no larger than his thumb. Next time you talk to your state legislator, ask him/her their thoughts on VAWA, and how you can work with them to help Georgia lead the way in making sure all its provisions are in place.