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Open Letter to Congress on VAWA from UniteWomen.org

Wednesday, November 14, 2012- VAWA National Day of Action

Dear Honorable Members of Congress:


We contact you today, both individually and as a group to urge you to attend to a matter that has gone untended and requires your swift and serious attention. That matter is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Since its first passage in 1994, this measure has received overwhelming bi-partisan support in both chambers of Congress. The need for it has been so clearly understood and accepted that it has never failed to be re-authorized- until this past year. In this last year, the Violence Against Women Act has become victim to the worst kind of bickering and dissension and that simply must come to an end.

The version of VAWA that is a true and full measure of protection (S1925), includes provisions for those who may be vulnerable due to grey areas of the law, such as: immigrants, the LGBT community, Native Americans and college students living on campus. S1925 passed by a super-majority in the Senate, while the response to this measure in the House of Representatives passed by a narrow margin. The House version of VAWA (HR4970) does not include the much-needed provisions cited above. Why are these provisions important? The following facts are compelling:

  • LGBTQ people face domestic violence at the same rates as others in the community:  25-33%.  Yet, a 2011 survey found that nearly 85% of service providers worked with LGBT clients who reported that they were turned away or denied services because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In addition, LGBTQ people are under-served because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, not just their gender, and should be included in this Act explicitly and not through a “gender neutral” approach that does not remove to the barriers created by homophobia.
  • ·         HR4970 rolls back current law by changing from “shall” to “may” the requirement that STOP administrators consult with community stakeholders including victim service providers, law enforcement and prosecutors.
  • HR4970 erodes important provisions for immigrant victims’ safety and gives abusers additional tools with which to harm victims. Furthermore, it limits the U visa program. Thus barring the use of unused visas, and will endanger victims who work with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice. 
  • HR4970 fails to address the crisis of violence against American Indian women by not recognizing tribal court authority to hold perpetrators accountable. S. 1925 addresses this jurisdictional gap by restoring concurrent tribal criminal jurisdiction over all persons committing a very narrow set of crimes in Indian country: domestic violence, dating violence, and violations of protection orders.  These local solutions will deliver long-overdue justice to Native women and safety to tribal communities. 
  • HR4970 fails to include key provisions needed to help reduce violence against young victims of violence. While under S.1925 institutions would have to  include in their annual campus crime reports statistics on domestic violence, dating violence and stalking (sexual assault is already in the Clery Act) reported on campus and would have to provide clear statements regarding the procedures followed when a case of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking is reported.


These facts are but a sampling of the reasons that comprehensive measures must be included and the Violence Against Women Act must be reauthorized. It is the right and just thing to do. Equal protection under the law is one of the basic tenets citizens of this country expect from their government on every level. Please consider our request with the gravity and respect with which it was made.


Directors and Members of UniteWomen.org:

Executive Board:

Karen Teegarden – CEO/Founder

Executive Directors:

Anita Doll Fiouris – Executive Director of Fundraising

Renee Davis – Executive Director of Development

Patricia Gil – Executive Director of Operations

Leslie Neidig – Executive Director of Programs

Regional Directors:

Wendy Trager – Director Region 1

Donna Brusoski – Director Region 2

Krystal Ransome – Director Region 3

Stephanie Maguire – Director Region 4

Michelle Mayer – Director Region 5

Cathy Herman – Director Region 6

Nikki Casey – Director Region 7

National Campus Board

Heather Betts – National Campus Director

Amanda LaShau – National Campus Membership Director

Erin Sands – Regional Campus Director

Lori Wright – Regional Campus Director

Nikki Pike – Regional Campus Director

Alyssa McClenning – Regional Campus Director

State Directors: ( # of members by state)

Rebekah Wills Crice   –           State Director AL (304)

Jennifer Moser            –           State Director AR (64)

Colleen Jousma           –           State Director CA ( 616)

Sandie Reed                  –        State Director CA

Michelle Mayer           –           State Director CO (146)

Sarah Ward Gaer        –           State Director CT (110)

Jodi L. Ochstein          –           State Director DC (114)

Kristina B. Lynn         –           State Director DE (75)

Diane Wilson              –        Co-State Director FL (610)

Jan Buckley Lella        –        Co-State Director FL

April Lausier               –           State Director IA (103)

Kristi Austin               –           State Director IN (141)

Lisa DiAlberto            –           State Director KS (116)

Grace Chambers          –           State Director KY (248)

Emily Sawyer Chance –           State Director LA (167)

Penelope Duby            –           State Director MA (300)

Victoria Bragunier      –           State Director MD (205)

Jackie Worthington     –           State Director ME (117)

Jennifer Leigh             –           State Director MI (338)

Christen Richardson   –           State Director NC (278)

Nikki Casey                 –          State Director NH (112)

Wendy Trager              –          State Director NJ (126)

Marisa Silva Dunbar   –           State Director NM (101)

Harriet Schutsch         –           State Director NV (174)

Tara Glynn                  –           State Director NY (169)

Brittany Mays             –           State Director OK (109)

Teressa Raiford           –           State Director OR (332)

Melissa A. Keen          –           State Director PA (186)

Ariel Guinn                 –           State Director SC (161)

Kim Kasey                  –           Co-State Director UT (202)

Maureen Boose           –           Co-State Director UT

Brenda Seward           –           State Director VA (313)

E. K. Narey                  –          State Director VT (30)

Crystalline Ly             –           State Director WI (124)

Sarah Zacharias           –           State Director WY (148)

** Number of members represented in states not having a State Director currently in place : 3417




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