Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.”
Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)?
A. VAWA was first enacted with bipartisan support in 1994 to prevent violent crime, particularly violence against women.
B. VAWA currently includes federal penalties for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), as well as funding to prevent this practice.
C. Since VAWA’s enactment, there have been numerous reports of waste, fraud, and abuse.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
VAWA was passed and signed into federal law in 1994 with bipartisan support to help victims of violence, including domestic and sexual violence, and to prevent future abuse. Since then, VAWA has been reauthorized by Congress three times (2000, 2005 and 2013).
VAWA currently does not include any federal penalties for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or funding to prevent this practice.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 513,000 women and girls in the United States have experienced or are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons.
For those who undergo the procedure, FGM can lead to serious health issues including infertility, severe bleeding, complications during childbirth, and death. Despite these known complications, in its current form, VAWA does not include any federal penalties for FGM or funding to prevent this practice.
Reports from the Department of Justice Inspector General have shown the misuse and abuse of funds within VAWA.
For example, a Department of Justice audit reviewed 22 randomly selected VAWA grants from 1998 to 2010. Of the 22 grantees, 21 were found to have violated the terms of their grants.
In 2017, the Department of Justice also found several instances of fraud and embezzlement.
Ultimately, this means that VAWA’s funds are not always spent on assisting victims of violence, leaving some without access to the services they need.
Policymakers can address VAWA’s existing flaws by requiring greater transparency and accountability. For example, Representative Ann Wagner recently proposed an amendment that aims to enhance transparency and accountability by requiring that any grant recipient found misusing funds lose all federal funding.
Furthermore, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is violence against women in its worst form.
VAWA can also be strengthened by including provisions enhancing federal penalties for FGM and by allocating funding to combat this inhumane crime against women and girls.
Congress enacted VAWA 25 years ago with laudable intentions: To prevent and respond to victims of violence. VAWA isn’t a political issue; we all want to support survivors and prevent future violence. By reauthorizing a better Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), we can ensure that funding is spent on serving victims and holding perpetrators accountable.