LETTER: Senate must act on Violence Against Women Act

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Dear Editor,

When I think about all of the ways that women have been affected by the pandemic, I think about Thea. In May, Thea lost her job because of COVID-19. Then, domestic violence forced her to move out of her apartment. When I talked to her, she was struggling to get help because the domestic violence programs she reached out to couldn’t operate at full capacity. She was desperate.

Thea’s story is all too common. We asked people to shelter in place in order to protect them from the threat of the virus. Unfortunately, for many women and children, being at home does not mean being safe from other threats. The stress of lost jobs and economic uncertainty has intensified abusive environments and relationships and led to an increase in incidents of domestic violence. And shelters that typically rely on grants, donations, and support from state and local governments are running out of resources and space to keep people safe.

Like all other aspects of this crisis, President Trump doesn’t have a plan to address these challenges. Vice President Biden does.

Fighting back against abuses of power has been a driving force throughout Vice President Biden’s career. It’s what motivated him to write the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was signed into law 26 years ago this week. In 1990, few in Washington cared about domestic violence, but he listened to survivors, lifted their voices, and won over the opposition. Four years later, the bill passed with bipartisan support and became law. VAWA created a national hotline for victims, funded shelters and crisis centers, and fundamentally changed the way Americans view violence against women.

Historically, VAWA has been reauthorized with support from both sides of the aisle. But, President Trump has done everything he can to roll back the progress made for women by VAWA, by the Affordable Care Act, and by Title IX. And he’s had willing accomplices in the Senate.

When VAWA expired in 2018, Republicans in the Senate did nothing. The latest reauthorization bill has sat on Senator McConnell’s desk for more than a year while people continue to suffer.

President Trump and Senator McConnell are blocking this bill because it includes a provision to close what’s commonly known as ‘the boyfriend loophole.’ The provision is a commonsense measure that would prevent abusive dating partners from buying or owning a gun.

Fifty-two women are shot to death by their partners every month in America. We have to face the fact that there is a deadly connection between violence against women and guns. This provision, which has already been adopted by many states, would help address this epidemic. But, President Trump and Senator McConnell have put the campaign donations of the NRA over the needs of the American people.

If we want to make real progress, we need real leaders. Leaders who stand up for women, and partner with groups such as the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. That’s who Vice President Biden is, it’s what he does.

I’ve been proud to work in the Senate to address violence against women in our homes, in our military, and on our campuses, and have worked with both Vice President Biden and Senator Harris on this issue over the years. I worked with Vice President Biden on his White House effort, It’s On Us. And in March, as we learned more about the pandemic and anticipated the surge in need, Senator Harris and I called on the Department of Health and Human Services to provide more resources to organizations that help survivors.

Vice President Biden and Senator Harris are the proven leaders we need who will build America back better for women and ensure we save lives and make communities safer for all. They’ll make sure that women have jobs to go back to and places to turn when they need help.

Reauthorizing VAWA, with provisions to expand protections and close the boyfriend loophole, is one of Vice President Biden’s top priorities for his first 100 days in office. With a Biden-Harris administration in the White House and a Democratic Senate majority, we will deliver the results women need. Women like Thea cannot afford to wait.


U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)