TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides funding for services offered to victims of abuse or violence, including legal assistance, safe housing and counseling.
VAWA was originally introduced and passed in 1995 and must be re-authorized every five years. While the re-authorization has passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support, the Republican-led Senate is stalling.
Jenny McCaslin was in an abusive relationship for five years. She says it started as mental and emotional abuse but later turned into physical violence.
“He started punching me repeatedly in my face until I slumped over on the car door and when I got the handle open and I got out, he tackled me and he was sitting on top of me choking me,” said Jenny. “I was like staring into his eyes and it felt like nobody was there.”
Jenny tried to leave multiple times, even moving to a new city to escape her abuser, but he tracked her down.
“He showed up and kicked my apartment door in,” added Jenny. “I was like, ‘when will this ever end?'”
The Violence Against Women Act provides funding for federal, state and local organizations that help women like Jenny during and after abusive relationships. For many Kansas organizations, especially those in rural areas, this funding is critical to keep services available.
“We help them do some planning on how they can keep themselves safe,” explained Kathleen Marker, CEO of the YWCA of Northeast Kansas.
Kathleen traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for the VAWA, which the YWCA depends on to keep running.
“The Senate has some sticking points when it comes to who we serve,” said Kathleen.
Those sticking points include offering resources and protections to transgender people, adding further protections for Indigenous women and prohibiting anyone convicted of abuse from owning a gun. Republican Senator from Iowa, Joni Ernst, introduced a separate bill that leaves out these additions. So far, neither bill has been passed.
For Jenny, the resources provided by the act are vital.
“I was lucky enough to be able to provide for myself and move somewhere else but a lot of people aren’t,” she said.