On Thursday, March 7, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 into law. As executive director of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence (Idaho Coalition), I had the honor of attending the White House signing and was thrilled to see firsthand President Obama and Vice President Biden recognize Sen. Mike Crapo for his leadership as co-sponsor of the bill and his instrumental work to secure the passage of this bipartisan and inclusive law.
Sen. Crapo has our sincerest gratitude to for his consistent, unwavering support to end violence against women and girls as does Rep. Mike Simpson for his vote for the inclusive version of the bill in securing this bipartisan victory for all survivors of violence.
Here’s why: Living a life free of violence is a basic right for everyone, and it goes against our values when women and girls are abused or raped.
In the state of Idaho alone, there have been nine fatalities related to domestic violence since January, including the 22-month-old by his stepfather, who had a history of domestic violence. One is too many. On an average day in Idaho, 688 adults and children seek domestic violence services from Idaho community-based domestic and sexual violence programs.
Fortunately, the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act will continue to provide critical services to individuals who are impacted by sexual and domestic violence. It is a proactive law that supports collaborative prevention efforts so critical to the healthy future of our society. It funds prevention efforts like the Idaho Coalition Love What’s Real campaign to educate and promote healthy relationships and positive behaviors of young people.
What we know for sure is that young people who are informed and empowered are more likely to succeed in all of their relationships and less likely to engage in violence or to believe violence is acceptable.
Young people’s voices are essential to social change in ending abuse in relationships. Just last week, Boise teens Khadija Khan, Zach Reider, Hunter Pluckebaum and Daniel Salato traveled to Washington, D.C., and participated in a White House event on Feb. 28 with Vice President Biden to mark National Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month. We are honored their voices were part of the national conversation.
And the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act extends further important protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survivors of abuse and makes significant strides in addressing sexual and domestic violence among native and tribal Americans as well.
The journey to make the act a reality ended with the president’s signature, but the work of ending all forms of violence will remain the responsibility of every one of us. We continue to send our most sincere thanks to all of our allies and supporters, especially our esteemed Sen. Crapo and Rep. Simpson, and hope to keep all of you engaged in creating a compassionate future, free of violence.
* Kelly Miller is executive director of the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence