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Sexual assault survivors call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Jolie Moran (center) with representatives from a local survivors network.

The Violence Against Women Act, which provides funding, services and other legislative impacts for domestic and sexual violence survivors, is set to expire at the end of the month. Local advocates are calling on Congress to extend the law.

Jolie Moran is a survivor of rape and works at the Vera House domestic and sexual assault service agency in Syracuse.

“I have seen firsthand the importance of the Violence Against Women Act," Moran said. "For nearly 25 years, survivors have relied on VAWA to be a pillar of safety and support in our country. For many, VAWA is the difference between life and death.”

Moran said the measure has helped create and support agencies like Vera House, all over the country. Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) said a short-term extension, which would only last a couple of months, has been proposed, but he said that is not acceptable. Katko and advocates at Vera House, like Monique Wright-Williams, another survivor of sexual abuse, want a longer or permanent extension of the law.

“I would love to have had my abuse been a short-term problem," Wright-Williams said. "I don’t think you give short-term solutions to long-term problems. This should be permanent, because my having to deal with this is permanent. It’s the remainder of my life.”

Katko said his goal is get it done this year. He said he thinks they will ultimately be successful, although he said many in Congress do not want to deal with anything difficult until after the November election.

Kavanaugh accusers

Local advocates also said the claim that the women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct are doing so out of political motivation, is just one of the barriers women face when they come forward. Randi Bregman, the executive director of Vera House, said the experience of survivors can be similar to what happened with Christine Blasey Ford, who received death threats and had to move from her home after going public with her accusations against Kavanaugh.

"So the one hand, the #MeToo movement says, me too, find your voice, we know what's happening, we believe you have a right to speak up," Bregman said. "But there have been and are consequences. The importance of understanding what happens in our nation this week and going forward, will have ripple effects for our survivors here in our community, and across the nation."

Bregman said the accusations against Kavanaugh need the time and attention to be fully considered before there is a vote. Katko said the victims need to be given the opportunity to talk and he would not judge any accusations until individuals are heard.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.