How the Violence Against Women Act Impacts College Women

By Francesca Witcher

Today, the U.S. Senate is expected to make a motion to proceed with a vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  Since its passing in 1994, this critical piece of legislation has protected millions of women across the country, especially women on college campuses. Unfortunately, legislators in the Senate have attempted to foster a partisan divide over legislation that has historically and overwhelmingly garnered bipartisan support.

In the U.S., according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network there are about 208,000 victims of sexual assault each year, most of whom are women. In addition, it is estimated that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men face rape in their lifetimes; and 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking in their lifetimes.

In a report by the U.S. Department of Justice, “Schools are not the safe havens they once appeared to be; college women are at higher risk of sexual assault than their non-college bound peers.”

On college campuses, the Department of Justice found just under 3 percent of college women reported being raped. Although this number may seem low, according to the DOJ report, it means that thirty-five women out of 1,000 reported being raped; on a large campus of about 10,000 college women that number translates into 350 rapes. Moreover, the Department of Justice says that most college students are completing their degrees over a 5-year period, which raises the proportion to about 5 percent. But, rape is tremendously under reported and the Department of Justice is working with colleges and universities to take better action in reporting and stopping sexual assault on their campuses. This is why we must reauthorize VAWA!

VAWA is extremely important for women living on college campuses because it provides protections under the law for those who are victims of rape and sexual assault. It enables women to acquire legal standing to prosecute their offenders; provides funding for programs at rape crisis centers near college campuses to support victims; broadens services to include both children and teenagers; trains federal, state and local leaders to effectively respond to cases involving domestic violence and sexual assault; and a host of other protections and services.

If Congress does not reauthorize VAWA by September 30, 2012, there will be severe consequences and detrimental effects on women and men on college campuses who find themselves victim to sexual assault. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s Choice Campus Leadership program is working with coalitions of young women on college campuses to write letters to Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

This is an undeniably important legislation that should NOT be taken for granted! If you are interested in organizing an action on your campus about the reauthorization of VAWA, please contact your campus organizer.

1 comment

  1. This article says, “1 in 71 men face rape in their lifetimes” which is misleading. The author is referring to the latest CDC survey, which defines rape as the attacker penetrating the victim; this excludes women who use their vagina to rape a man (rape by envelopment) which is counted as “made to penetrate”. The same survey says “1 in 21 men (4.8%) reported that they were made to penetrate someone else,” which is far more than 1 in 71. Also, the study says that 79.2% of male victims of “made to penetrate” reported only female perpetrators (meaning they were raped by a woman).

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