ALERT: Contact Your Senators – VAWA must be Reauthorized 

We know this alert is a bit long – but it is VERY IMPORTANT as Violence Against Women programs could be weakened and under-funded by the Republican-controlled Senate. 

ACTION: Please call your senators, especially if they are Republicans, and ask them to support VAWA reauthorization bill, S. 2843, the “real” VAWA bill sponsored by Sen. Feinstein. They should oppose S. 2920, the NRA’s preferred bill, as it would seriously weaken VAWA programs, place survivors at risk and dilute funding to address core programs of aiding survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Dating Violence and Stalking. Background and Talking Points follow. 

Senate Directory 

Gridlocked – The critically important Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 has been caught in a Senate gridlock now for almost a year.  The House passed H.R. 1585 last April by 263 – 187, including 33 Republicans in favor. In the Senate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is sponsoring S.2843, a companion to the House-passed bill which all Democrats and two Independents, 47 in all, are sponsoring. We need at least 51 supporters andbetter yet, 60 or more to get VAWA to a floor vote.  

NRA Causing Problems – The National Rifle Association (NRA) is campaigning against the Feinstein bill (S. 2843) which has a gun safety provision that could save lives of persons caught in abusive dating relationships by closing the dangerous “boyfriend loophole. The NRA lobbyists are making lots of false claims about S. 2843 in an effort to scare away Republican supporters.  

Ernst Bill – To help some Republican senators running for re-election and who are petrified of the NRA, the Republican leadership is pushing a pitiful bill, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). This bill, S.2920, which has 13 co-sponsors, deletes provisions that would better protect LGBTQIA+ persons and Native American survivors of violence living on reservations by attacking tribal jurisdiction provision enacted in 2013, among other efforts to weaken VAWA. 

Weakening VAWA – The Republicans have packed the Joni Ernst bill with loads of additional, unrelated provisions that address victims of trafficking, child sexual abuse, and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. These provisions relate to programs already separately authorized and should be separately addressed. Their inclusion in a VAWA bill would seriously dilute the funding available to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.  

VAWA programs are already underfunded and have to turn away clients in need – so the Republican bill is particularly harmful to VAWA programs.   

Reauthorize Funding  Some activists have claimed that VAWA is in danger. To be clear, the VAWA law does not expire, it’s just the funding that needs to be reauthorized. Funding for current VAWA programs is authorized through September 2020. Each time it is reauthorized, advocates and sponsors IMPROVE the law, adding important programs and services and higher funding levels.   

That is why we must continue to insist that VAWA be reauthorized while also demanding continued funding for the current version of VAWA. 

Building Support – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may not want to schedule a vote on VAWA until closer to the General Election, but we have to take time now to build our grassroots and increase pressure on senators.  


(Please be sure to call if your Senator voted for VAWA 2013 (Alexander (R-TN, Burr (R-NC), Collins (R-ME), Crapo (R-ID), Fischer (R-NE), Hoeven (R-ND), Isakson (R-GA), Moran (R-KS), Murkowski (R-AK), Portman (R-OH), Shelby (R-AL), Toomey (R-PA) and Wicker (R-MS). They need to get on board ASAP.) 

 I am urging you to support the “real” Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, S. 2843, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The House version of that bill, H.R. 1585, passed by 263, to 158 with 33 Republican members in support.  The Senate counterpart has 47 co-sponsors, all Democrats and two Independents and I am encouraging you to sign on as a co-sponsor. The last time VAWA was reauthorized in 2013, twenty-two Republican senators voted in support. 

Please do not support S. 2920, sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) as it would seriously weaken VAWA programs’ focus on survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. This bill would add unrelated new provisions that would drain funding from VAWA’s core programs. Annual surveys of shelters show that nearly all must turn away clients in need for lack of adequate resources and limited funding. 

Here are a few of the many modest improvements that S. 2843 would make: 

  • Invests in prevention; 
  • Ends impunity for non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse co-occurring with domestic violence, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands; 
  • Improves enforcement of court orders that require adjudicated domestic abusers to relinquish their firearms; 
  • Improves access to housing for victims and survivors; 
  • Protects victims of dating violence from firearm homicide; 
  • Helps survivors gain and maintain economic independence; 
  • Updates the federal definition of domestic violence for the purposes of VAWA grants only to acknowledge the full range of abuse victims suffer (does not impact the criminal definition of domestic violence); 
  • Maintains existing protections for all survivors; and 
  • Improves the healthcare system’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. 

Here are some suggestions: 

  • Go to candidates’ town hall meetings, both our friends and opponents and ask them why they aren’t supporting the passage of VAWA or thank them for being a supporter.
  • Write opeds or letters to the editor, supporting an improved VAWA reauthorization and NAME your Senator who is blocking this effort, or thank your supportive Senator.  
  • Take a “stop violence against women” sign to any and all rallies and gatherings that you attend.   
  • Work with your local shelters and crisis centers to keep them open and serving your community.   
  • Gather stories from survivors and include these stories in your alerts, social media, conversations, and letters or calls to your senators. 


From the Office on VAW 

VAWA contains no sunset provision and does not expire.  Expiration of the appropriations authorizations in VAWA pertains to the grant programs alone and not to the other legal improvements that have accompanied these authorizations since 1994.