When the government shut down last night, the Violence Against Women Act went with it.
Friday night, after being saved twice this year — first on Sept. 30, then again on Dec. 7, when it was due to expire — VAWA, whose programs aid victims of sexual violence, domestic abuse, and stalking, lost its source of funding because of the government shutdown. (Its programs are funded under the Justice Department.)
It’s a fitting, if appalling, end to 2018, a year that saw the ascent of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, even as he faced a credible allegation of attempted rape, among other acts of aggression against women; and the frictionless comebacks by men whose careers were but briefly paused by serious accusations of sexual misconduct (Ryan Seacrest, Morgan Freeman, Louis CK, Ryan Lizza, John Hockenberry, Jian Ghomeshi, to name a half-dozen).
This is the second time VAWA has lapsed since it was passed in 1994. In 2011, House Republicans allowed it to lapse amid bipartisan efforts — which ultimately succeeded — to broaden the act so it would cover same-sex couples and grant temporary visas to undocumented immigrants who were victims of assault.
Funding secured under VAWA support everything from rape-crisis centers to legal aid to community programming to fight abuse. As Fortune reports, “The original act also provided funds for prosecuting attackers, and revised restitution and sentencing for violent crimes, typically against domestic partners. The current law covers undocumented immigrants and gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals, and Native Americans.”
Though VAWA received bipartisan support at the time of its passage — in the wake of Anita Hill’s searing testimony during Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings — Republicans have tried to diminish its funding ever since. And though Republicans have generally supported VAWA in the past, they have largely kept silent on the effect the current shutdown will have on it. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) tweeted his disappointment that “Democrats & Republicans have failed to work together to avoid a shutdown. Now, critical funding for programs like VAWA has lapsed,” but he’s a lone Republican voice on social media addressing the issue so far.
A few Democrats have been more outspoken on the matter, addressing VAWA and victims of sexual violence directly.
GOP & @realDonaldTrump aren’t only shutting down the government tonight, they’re allowing the Violence Against Women Act to expire and leaving survivors of domestic violence & sexual assault without critical, lifesaving resources. Shameful.
— Rep. Joe Kennedy III (@RepJoeKennedy) December 21, 2018
What shouldn’t be lost in Trump’s shutdown is House Republicans are allowing the Violence Against Women Act to expire. A shameful end to Speaker Ryan’s tenure.
— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) December 21, 2018
Not only does Trump’s 3rd shutdown hurt economy, undermine critical gov't services & leave 800K workers without paychecks days before Xmas, but it also means expiration of Violence Against Women Act & its critical protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. https://t.co/2udjHIiyCE
— Congresswoman Julia Brownley (@JuliaBrownley26) December 22, 2018
Tragically, domestic abuse programs are needed as much as ever during the holiday season. Many studies have found that the number of calls to police and domestic violence hotlines spike during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years.