The Iowa lawmakers are pushing the Biden administration to immediately implement parts of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization to make clear and consistent definitions of sexual assault so it can be better addressed.
WASHINGTON – Following the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that she fought hard to craft and get passed, and during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)—a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault—along with Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), is pushing the Biden administration to immediately implement parts of the new law that make clear and consistent definitions of sexual assault so it can be better addressed.
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Iowa lawmakers are calling attention to “the Washington bureaucracy’s confusing case counting that lacks clarity and consistency” and that is resulting in varying estimates of the issue, “from 244,190 rape or sexual assault victimizations in a single year to as many as 1,929,000 victims of rape or attempted rape during the same period.”
“Every survivor counts and needs to be counted because we won’t end this epidemic of abuse if we aren’t properly identifying and measuring it,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “As part of the VAWA reauthorization, we directed the U.S. Attorney General to resolve these differences once and for all. He needs to take swift action and implement this law so we can improve our efforts to understand, address, prevent, and define sexual violence.”
“Survivors of sexual violence need our support and having all of the data available is crucial. The federal agencies need to be in unison on definitions and terminology to best collect data around sexual violence,” said Congresswoman Miller-Meeks. “A lack of coordination could easily lead to misreporting and that is unacceptable. DOJ needs to get to work immediately to implement this provision and support survivors so that we can accurately take on and hopefully bring an end to abuse.”
Ernst awarded her monthly “Squeal Award” for April 2022 to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which has the authority to coordinate federal statistics on this but still has not made any effort to fix the problem and, as a result, has compromised efforts to address sexual violence.
Since VAWA expired in 2018, Ernst has worked in good-faith, across the aisle to modernize and reauthorize the legislation. Throughout all of 2020 and 2021 Ernst remained committed to getting VAWA modernized and reauthorized and introduced her own version of VAWA that drastically bolstered support for survivors in all communities. She had her bipartisan bill to modernize and reauthorize VAWA signed into law earlier this year.
Click here to read the lawmakers’ full letter to AG Garland.