In an uncharacteristic show of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate voted 78-22 Tuesday to renew the two-decade-old Violence Against Women’s Act, which in spite of its demonstrated success in lowering national rates of domestic violence and helping women escape abusive situations, was allowed to expire in 2011 amid pre-election posturing. Stalled federal programs will be rebooted upon renewal of the Act in the House, where positive action is always threatened by partisan politics.
The Senate’s renewal of the Act, which includes new planks assuring that gays, lesbians and immigrants will have equal access to anti-domestic violence programs, came in the wake of an incident in Wilmington, Delaware on Monday that highlighted America’s problems with both domestic abuse and guns. According to police, Thomas Matusiewicz of Texas shot and killed his daughter-in-law and a female friend who had accompanied her to a child support hearing in the New Castle County courthouse. (Because the shooting took place in the lobby the gunman had not had to pass through metal detectors.) After shooting two police officers who were saved by their armored vests, Mr. Matusiewicz shot himself in the head.
Mr. Matusiewicz’s son, David, was arrested Tuesday on charges of violating probation after pleading guilty in 2009 to kidnapping the children of he and his now deceased wife, Christine Belford. The combination of readily available guns and bitterness over custody and support disputes resolved in favor of women create a volatile and often bloody American problem.
Thursday, as part of the 15th anniversary of V-Day, a global effort to end violence against women and girls, Berkshire residents will join like-minded people the world over for One Billion Rising, a call for men and women everywhere to rise up against domestic violence and sexual assault. (See letter this page.) Congress is halfway to renewal of a critically important domestic violence measure, but this fight must be waged by everyone. Tomorrow offers an opportunity to participate and to be heard.