WASHINGTON, D.C. — Every minute, an average of 24 individuals in the United States are the victims of physical abuse, stalking, or sexual assault at the hands of their intimate partners, with 35.6 percent of women in the U.S. experiencing some form of domestic violence in their lifetime. This October NOW observes Domestic Violence Awareness Month as a means to advocate for survivors and mobilize towards a future that puts an end to domestic violence once and for all.
Over the course of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed heinous truths about the ways in which domestic violence impacts women’s day to day lives. As millions sheltered in place, major hospitals across the country saw a surge in emergency care cases resulting from intimate partner violence (IPV). A number of factors including economic instability, lack of access to stable childcare, and social support, have been linked to IPV and these were only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
IPV also has a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups. It is estimated that 37.5 percent of Native women have experienced IPV in their lifetime, with 29.1 percent of Black women, 23.4 percent of Latinas, and 41-60 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander women reporting the same. Black and Native women are at the greatest risk for IPV related homicide. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are often left out of the conversation when we discuss domestic violence as well. Reports show that 43.8 percent of lesbian women and 61.1 percent of bisexual women experience some form of IPV in their lifetimes. Transgender women also disproportionately experience IPV and are most likely to experience domestic violence in a public space.
NOW has been at the forefront drafting and advocating for legislation like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which aims to address domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, and the many structural issues that allow for the abuse of women with limited consequences. Today, VAWA remains in the Senate graveyard. After expiring in December 2018 as a result of the government shutdown, the House of Representatives voted on its reauthorization in May 2019. Since then, the Senate has neglected to pick it up for a vote, leaving its reauthorization on the table for over a year and millions of survivors without support.
We need elected officials who will use their office and their influence to build a national culture and promote policies and services that censure this violence, hold perpetrators accountable, and bring justice and safety to survivors as they live, work and thrive. We must mobilize in an effort to elect a president and a Senate that support a true cultural change in November. If we do, VAWA will not only be reauthorized but improved, expanded, fully funded, and fully enforced so that survivors finally receive the support they deserve.