Campus Survivors' Letter to Congress Urging Immediate Reauthorization of VAWA with Key Campus Provisions

As a national organization focused on engaging, educating and empowering young people between the ages of 12 and 24 to build lives and communities free from domestic and dating violence, Break the Cycle (www.breakthecycle.org) is coordinating this opportunity to give voice to those who have suffered violence on campus and demand that Congress do more to help. Questions about the letter should be directed to Juley Fulcher at jfulcher@breakthecycle.org. For more information on the Violence Against Women Act, go to www.4vawa.org. We are asking people who were the victims of dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking on a college campus, as well as those who were victims of campus violence related to or connected to these crimes, to join us in advocating for the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). By the numbers alone, we know that our college campuses are not safe. And, as a great many of us are all too aware, campus systems are often not equipped to provide victims with appropriate support, referrals, accommodations, or even safety. What’s more, few survivors of these crimes walk away with a sense that justice was done and perpetrators were held accountable through school responses. Congress has the opportunity help us build safer campus environments through proposed provisions in the Violence against Women Act Reauthorization currently before them. The Senate passed a VAWA bill (S.1925) back in April. The bill had been developed through an extensive process of information gathering and analysis all over the country over a period of several years followed by thorough negotiations among Senators. It passed with a bipartisan supermajority (68-31) in support. The House passed a VAWA bill (H.R.4970) in May. The bill was not developed with the same level of considered effort and contains significant flaws and omissions. The unfortunate result was narrow passage on a near party-line. The differing bills also means that the Senate and House must work together to develop a final bill that can go to the floor for a vote in both Chambers. So what is the problem? -- Stalemate. That's right, with precious few legislative days remaining, they are not even talking to each other! Join us in demanding that Congress end the stalemate and get VAWA done now! Your voice can make a difference! Below is a letter that we are inviting survivors of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on campus to sign. The letter will be delivered to EVERY Senator and Congressperson in Washington and made publicly available on Wednesday, July 18th. Here's your chance to change the world! Who should sign the letter? ---individuals who were the victims of dating violence, sexual assault or stalking on campus (including violence taking place near campus, in off-campus student housing, in largely student-populated neighborhoods or at student hangouts off campus, etc.) ---individuals who were the victims of other violence on campus in connection to incidents of dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking (such as bystanders caught in the middle of the violence, retaliation for reporting violence or supporting victim, etc.) ---individuals who were the victims of other violence that might have been prevented if that campus were effectively addressing dating violence, sexual assault and stalking (such as a victim of violence whose perpetrator had previously been reported for these crimes but not held accountable) ---individuals who are the family members of campus homicide victims where the crime fits one of the three categories listed above Do I have to be a current college student? ---No. We invite current college students and former college students (or the families of those students in homicide cases) to sign the letter. What will be included in the signature? --Each person will be listed with their name (but see below), the college or university where the incident(s) occurred, the person's year of graduation or expected graduation or year they would have graduated, and current city and state of residence For example: Jane Doe University of Pittsburgh Class of 2008 Patterson, NJ or John Doe - Family Member Tim Doe - Homicide Victim University of Pittsburgh Class of 2008 Leonardtown, MD We understand people wishing to sign this document still may be dealing with concerns for their safety and confidentiality. Under those circumstances, we do not want to put you at risk. But we still want to give you a voice. You can choose to sign the letter anonymously (or with your first name only). You will be listed only by the college or university where the violence occurred and the year that you graduated or expect to graduate. For example: Anonymous Tulane University Class of 2013 or Jane Tulane University Class of 2013 All identifying information and contact information collected in the process of organizing these anonymous “signatures” will be held in the strictest of confidence and will never be shared with anyone outside of Break the Cycle. :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: July 18, 2012 United States Senate Washington, DC 20510 United States House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515 Dear Senator/Representative: We, the undersigned survivors of violence committed on college and university campuses nationwide and the families of those who did not survive this violence, call upon every Member of Congress to pass the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization before the end of September. Furthermore, the final VAWA must contain comprehensive campus provisions including the Campus SaVE Act and the Campus Safety Act. Each of us has been dramatically affected by at least one of the four crimes that have become a silent epidemic on college campuses: stalking, sexual assault, dating violence and/or domestic violence. We have been the victims of this violence. We have family members who have been killed on campus as part of the commission of these crimes. We have family members who might not have been killed if their colleges and universities had been fully and responsibly addressing stalking, sexual assault, and dating violence through well structured campus systems for prevention, intervention, victim support and perpetrator accountability. And we are not alone: >>>>>13.1% of college women report having been stalked during the school year. >>>>>One in five college women report having been sexually assaulted. >>>>>70% of all victims of intimate partner violence in the US experience the first incidents of abuse before they reach the age of 25. There are more than 4,700 colleges and universities in the United States with a total enrollment of over 20 million students. This is a population in crisis that cannot and will not be ignored. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), enacted in 1994, recognized the insidious and pervasive nature of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. In every reauthorization of the Act, Congress has worked carefully to craft improved, enhanced, and accountable programs and services, as well as coordinated community responses, with the goal of providing comprehensive, effective and cost saving responses to these crimes. VAWA’s reauthorization must build upon its successes and continue progress towards ending the violence. VAWA must reach all victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in every community and on every college campus. The Grants to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women on Campus program helps institutions of higher education adopt a comprehensive response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. First authorized in 1999, this very small program has had a dramatic impact on the institutions of higher education lucky enough to get one of these grants (approximately 20-22 colleges per year). It is essential to reauthorize the Campus Grants Program in VAWA, yet it is unacceptable for this to continue to be the only piece of VAWA addressing the overwhelming need. The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, introduced independently in both chambers and passed as part of S.1925 in the Senate-passed VAWA, is a crucial step forward. It will address sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking at institutions of higher education and increase awareness and prevention of these acts of violence by requiring transparency of information, systemic, campus-wide policies and procedures to address these crimes, prevention programs, and assistance for victims. The Campus Safety Act, introduced independently in both chambers and passed as part of H.R. 4970 in the House-passed VAWA, is also essential. It will establish a National Center for Campus Public Safety that will provide a centralized, government operated entity to promote proactive approaches to campus safety through the development of best practices, research, and training opportunities. Both the House and the Senate passed bills earlier this year to reauthorize VAWA. It is clear that the vast majority of Congress supports a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act with key improvements. But as we watch the clock ticking on the 112th Congress, we are painfully aware of the devastating blow to the young people in our colleges and universities that will occur if Congress fails to pass a final VAWA. We are the voices of the unimaginable pain and suffering occurring every day on our college campuses. We are the voices of those young people whose safety continues to be at such great risk. We are the voices of those who are still too unsafe to speak out about the violence they experienced. We are the voices of those who have tragically died senseless deaths when their lives were just beginning. We will not wait! Get VAWA done now! We call upon each and every Senator and Congressperson to prioritize the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and the safety and well-being of the young people we are all relying on to carry our nation forward. We implore you not to let us or them down. Sincerely,
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