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Thursday, December 8, 2016

It turns out that it’s a myth that more women are victims of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. But it is true that this is the first Super Bowl Sunday since 1994 that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has not been in effect.

Last year, after a bipartisan, filibuster-proof majority approved the revised VAWA in the Senate, House Republicans refused to even vote on the bill because it protected too many women — including undocumented workers, LGBT women and Native Americans. Protections have been expanded as the bill was reauthorized in the past. Native American women, for instance, are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than any other group.

The legacy of the bill is so strong that many of its statutes — including the Rape Shield Law, which protects the identity of sexual assault victims — are still being enforced. But if Congress does not appropriate funding in the continuing resolution that needs to be passed by March 27, domestic violence shelters and the National Domestic Abuse Hotline will be shuttered.

Democrats in the Senate now have 60 votes to pass the bill again to send it to the House, where it once more faces an uncertain future. “For nearly 20 years, the programs supported by VAWA have been a lifeline to so many,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said in a statement. “They deserve swift action in Congress.”

VAWA was passed with near-unanimous majorities in 2000 and 2010 because the effectiveness of the law has been astonishing. “From 1994 to 2010, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the United States declined by 64 percent, from 9.8 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older to 3.6 per 1,000,” reports Shannan M. Catalano of the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Some, including anti-feminist icon Phyllis Schlafly, argue that the law should be made gender-neutral, which negates the reality that 4 out of 5 victims of intimate partner violence are women. Focusing on protecting women has helped lower the instances of partner violence for both genders by 60 percent.

The myth that Super Bowl Sunday is an extraordinarily dangerous day for women was fostered to draw attention to domestic violence. But this Sunday is just another day when more there will be 24 instances of intimate partner violence every minute and three women will die at the hands of a partner.

And the Super Bowl game itself results in massive human trafficking of women forced to serve as sex slaves. “It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States,” said Texas attorney general Greg Abbott, in 2011. Tens of thousands of women are brought to area near where the big game is held and made to have sex with 25 to 50 men a day.

This happens every year.

What makes this Sunday exceptional is that it’s the first one in decades that a law that did so much to prevent this needless violence is no longer there to protect them.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

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