By Bernardita Yunis Varas (YP4 ’07 & FLLA ’08)

“VAWA saves lives, and we must allow states and communities the opportunity to build upon the success of current VAWA programs so that we can help even more people,” states a letter from 12 House Republicans urging party leaders to reconsider their opposition to the bill. Republicans now oppose the bill due to new provisions that include LGBT and Native Americans.  However, not passing this important bill–which would be the first time since its inception in 1994 under President Clinton–would cause a severe lack of resources for states working to protect women and prosecute perpetrators.

It may sound repetitive to say it is “more important than ever” for this bill to pass, but the reality is that it is critical that it passes.   Every year.  Until violence against women is eradicated completely–and you can choose to believe the feasibility of that.

But that is exactly the point.  If it may never be completely stopped, then don’t we HAVE to have programs that support the survivors?? If we are incapable of eradicating it, then we must do what we can.  These added provisions some politicians choose to object to are critical because they reflect what our society truly looks like, and accepts that all are victims to violence.  We cannot discriminate.  These provisions speak to the basic equality and inalienable rights our great nation promises to protect.

Violence towards women is disturbingly prevalent in our society, and is all too often seen as the norm by some individuals–more than we would like to admit or accept. As a Latina, I am a witness to the machismo that often correlates to occurrences of violence perpetrated on women.

But we must remember: these women are not merely victims of abuse.

Instead, we need to promote and encourage FEARLESS SURVIVAL in the face of attacks.

Programs like those supported through VAWA empower women to stand up against abuse, fight back by speaking up, and come together to support one another as survivor sisters.

We should not for a second believe this issue is distant from your own life:

1 in 5 young women will be victims of sexual assault while they are in college.

1 in 9 teen girls will be forced to have sex.

1 in 10 teens will be hurt on purpose by someone they are dating.

(Statistics from the Department of Justice).

AND… 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the United States are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

There are people within our very own PFAW Foundation family who are survivors and are fighting for their chance to speak in support of VAWA with the hope that it will inspire others to speak up, to fight, and to own their own lives so they can defend their rights to safety.

The Senate passed the bill with an overwhelming 78-22 vote.  Now it is up to the House of Representatives to do the same–without delay.  As Vice President Joe Biden stated, “Delay isn’t an option when three women are still killed by their husbands or boyfriends every day.

Delay isn’t an option when countless women still live in fear of abuse, and when one in five have been victims of rape… This issue should be beyond debate–the House should follow the Senate’s lead and pass the Violence Against Women Act right away.”