April 24, 2012
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), representing nearly 60,000 members at 20 carriers strongly urges passage of the Violence Against Women Act of 2011 (VAWA). Domestic violence remains a troubling part of our society. A staggering 1.3 million women and 800,000 men annually are physically assaulted by an intimate partner. At AFA, one percent of flight attendants reported abuse committed by an intimate partner to our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Of course, because domestic violence is underreported we suspect these already high numbers to be higher in reality.
First signed into law in 1994, VAWA seeks to decrease the frequency of assault on victims of domestic violence. It does this by funding rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and other public and private community based organizations to provide a safety net from abuse, while aiding investigation and prosecution of the assailant.
VAWA is a cost-effective and successful method of decreasing domestic violence. In a cost-benefit analysis published by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, researchers determined that the first authorization of VAWA saved $14.8 billion dollars in net averted social costs. Further, the current proposed reauthorization even saves more than $135 million from the last authorization in 2005. Most importantly, since its founding, domestic violence has dropped 67 percent. It continues to maintain bipartisan support everywhere except in the United States Congress, as illustrated by the fact that 53 Attorneys General of the United States and the territories support this legislation. This hostility to reauthorizing VAWA is shocking given that it was unanimously reauthorized both times it previously was passed in the Senate.
Traditionally, VAWA was meant to protect women from domestic violence, and over the years the reach of VAWA has extended to the elderly, disabled, and teens. However, eleven percent of gay women and fifteen percent of gay men report some form of violence from their partner. AFA EAP representatives encourage victims of domestic violence to file police reports in order to be eligible for the funds to help individuals. However, under the current law, we must tell our members who are victims of same sex abuse that reporting abuse to the police is ineffective because they won’t be eligible for services provided under VAWA. Fortunately, VAWA would end this injustice and extend the reach of the law to cover same-sex couples.
Importantly, VAWA would also extend protections to victims of international sex trafficking. According to the Department of Justice, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 victims of human trafficking cross our borders every year. These are people who are ripped from their homes and are oftentimes manipulated and abused. Their inability to report abuse only helps to ensure their continued enslavement. They are certainly in need of temporary help that we have the moral obligation to provide.
Senator, we urge you to support the Violence Against Women Act. Violence is violence whether it's between a man and a woman, or between two men or two women. Violence is violence regardless of the legal status of the victim. VAWA is an essential piece of legislation that needs to be passed.