Sexual assault, stalking and other forms of domestic violence are tragically common in the United States, and women of color and the LGBTQ community are disproportionately affected. Due to a history of racial discrimination, and structural disadvantages intertwined with high poverty rates, women of color face a higher risk of domestic gun violence. Compared to non-Hispanic white women, Black women are twice as likely to be fatally shot by an intimate partner. Nearly 2 out of 3 of bisexual women have experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their lifetimes, and more than half of transgender people experience intimate partner violence.
Meanwhile, some of our leaders are doing little to keep women and marginalized communities safe, and are even taking steps that cause further harm. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), is stonewalling meaningful action on gun control, and he and others in his party are launching relentless attacks on reproductive health care. Many members of Congress are ignoring the need for paid sick and safe days for survivors of domestic violence. We know that there are policies that would help make women and families safer. This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we honor survivors and those we have lost to domestic violence by demanding Congress take the following actions.
- Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act of 2019
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan VAWA reauthorization bill with key improvements in April 2019 but the Senate has yet to pass it. Congress needs to swiftly reauthorize and invest in VAWA in order to ensure survivors have access to lifesaving protections and services such as housing protections. Reauthorizing VAWA will also increase youth training and education programs.
- Pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019
The United States is the most dangerous country in the world for gun violence against women. Women here are 16 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries. Moreover, one in seven gun buyers thwarted by the federal background check system is a domestic abuser. Strengthening gun safety legislation and background checks in particular would protect women and families from the epidemic of gun violence we have in this country. The House passed the Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019 and its past time for the Senate to do the same.
- Pass the Healthy Families Act so women can have paid safe days
A domestic violence survivor should never have to make impossible choices between caring for themselves, their family and their safety and keeping a paycheck or job. The Healthy Families Act would allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year. Workers who are survivors of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault can use their paid sick days as paid safe days to recover or seek assistance related to the incident.
- Ensure Access To Health Care
Restrictions on access to the full range of health services — including reproductive health care — can leave survivors vulnerable due to the particular health impacts of domestic violence. We need to pass the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act and fight to protect critical health care policies like the Affordable Care Act and the Title X Family Planning Program to reduce barriers to health care.
Our laws and policies should protect and provide opportunity to everyone living in our country. We should ensure that women and families can thrive in a safe and healthy environment. This Domestic Violence Awareness Month, celebrate survivors by telling your senators and representative we refuse to wait any longer. Learn more and take action here.