Advocacy is a key tenet of Zonta International’s efforts to empower women.  Zonta International recommends action in accordance with the Objects of Zonta International to improve the status of women and to promote legislative awareness, advocacy and equal rights.  Zonta International works with districts and clubs to assist in these efforts.

Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act 2018

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations along with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer introduced on July 26, 2018 the 2018 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  It was set to expire on September 30, 2018.  Congress has extended the deadline to December 7, 2018

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) and her colleagues Rep. John Faso (R-NY-19) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08) introduced the Violence Against Women Extension Act – a six-month clean extension of the expiring provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Congresswoman Stefanik and her colleagues recently wrote a letter to House Leadership urging action on this critical legislation before the September 30th deadline.

NCADV Statement on the Reauthorization of VAWA

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) has been working with Congress for over a year to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with modest but vital fixes that close gaps in current law and provide support and safety to all victims of sexual and domestic violence. After extensive outreach to domestic violence shelters, advocates, lawyers, and others, NCADV and our sister organizations presented Congress with a strong and largely noncontroversial reauthorization that was designed to garner bipartisan support and not only maintains what we currently have but also:

  • Invests in prevention;
  • Protects underserved populations;
  • Provides access to justice for Native American victims of domestic and sexual violence;
  • Provides better housing options for survivors who need to leave their abusers;
  • Ensures survivors have access to vital economic supports;
  • Supports alternatives to a criminal justice system response in accordance with the wishes of the survivor;
  • Promotes robust enforcement of court orders; and
  • Provides stronger protections for victims under federal firearms laws.

These are modest but vital fixes, identified by domestic violence shelters, advocates, and other professionals who respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

We will not settle for less.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2018 (H.R.6545) that does all of these things and more, and we applaud her for taking a stand for victims and survivors. 163 members of the House of Representatives stand with her.

Congress has had more than a year-and-a-half to reauthorize VAWA with meaningful fixes, but it has failed to do so. They have had months to take action on H.R.6545, but they have done nothing. Now, as VAWA approaches expiration on September 30, those in charge of Congress feel the pressure of the deadline and have added a ten-week extension of VAWA to a must-pass spending bill, picking the can down the road until after the election. This allows them to go home and say they protected VAWA without having to take real and meaningful action. An average of three-to-four women are murdered daily by their intimate partners. Every day we delay passing a comprehensive VAWA reauthorization costs lives.

The decision to extend VAWA’s authorization was made without any input from the field. The extension is also unnecessary. The must-pass spending bill will fund VAWA through December 7th. Congress routinely funds unauthorized programs while reauthorization efforts are ongoing, and VAWA is no exception VAWA was unauthorized from 2010 through 2013, and Congress not only funded it each of those years, it increased its funding! We do not need this temporary extension in order for VAWA to be funded; we need Congress to collaborate with us and with Representative Jackson Lee to take meaningful, bipartisan action to protect victims and survivors.

Instead of supporting a bill that meets the needs of victims and survivors, suddenly, with the date of expiration upon us, there are a wave of bills from Members of Congress who had every opportunity to work with us and with Representative Jackson Lee months ago to put forward a robust, bipartisan bill. One of the bills, introduced by Representative Elise Stefanik, tries to continue the trend of kicking the can down the road by extending VAWA authorization for six months, but it fails even to do that. That bill only reauthorizes some VAWA programs, leaving out many important programs including rape prevention grants, services for victims of sexual assault, grants to tribes and other underserved communities, and grants to address the rape kit backlog.

Survivors and their families are counting on everyone in Congress to take a stand on their behalf and seriously consider the critical improvements in H.R.6545, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee’s Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018. This bill does not include extreme changes that would excite controversy – it reflects the fixes and modest improvements that the field has said are needed. If Congress is truly committed to protecting and serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, they should pass H.R.6545 before leaving town.

Proposed Changes to Title IX Regulations released by the Department of Education

The comment period is now open for the proposed changes to Title IX regulations released by the Department of Education on November 16th.

The proposed regulations:

  1. Establish a more narrow definition of sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.”
  2. Allow schools to adopt either a “preponderance of evidence” or “clear and convincing” evidence to determine whether an accused student is guilty of the alleged conduct. The “clear and convincing standard sets an unreasonably high bar for evidence that is difficult to achieve in sexual assault cases and can discourage survivors from reporting.
  3. Limit the institutions’ legal responsibility for investigating formal complaints and responding to reports that school officials have “actual knowledge” of happening. A formal complaint must be made to a school official “with authority to institute corrective measures”.
  4. Require schools to hold live hearings and allow victims and the accused to cross examine one another through an adviser or lawyer.
  5. Limit complaints covered under Title IX to conduct that occurred on school grounds or within a school program or activity.

These proposed regulations will make it less likely that survivors come forward to report sexual harassment or sexual assault and will make schools less safe for students. The Zonta USA Caucus is adamantly opposed to these new regulations and encourages all Zonta members and supporters in the United States to voice their opposition to these regulations and prevent their implementation.

Here is what you can do:

  1. Submit a commentduring the 60-day “notice and comment” period. Learn more about the “notice and comment” period and how to submit the most effective comment.
  2. In light of the Department of Education’s decision to weaken Title IX regulations, we urge Congress to take legislative action. Contact your representative and senator to encourage them to pass the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, a bipartisan effort that protects students and professionalizes the response to and reporting of campus sexual assault.
  3. Add your name to our letter to Secretary DeVos, urging the Department of Education to withdraw the proposed regulations.

Thank you for taking action to ensure that all students feel comfortable coming forward to report sexual assault and so that more perpetrators can be brought to justice.