UC Berkeley students react to expiration, extension of Violence Against Women Act

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Updated 1/30/19: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from Elizabeth Arutyunyan.

During the 35-day partial government shutdown, the Violence Against Women Act, which provides funding to support women who have suffered from violent crimes, expired and was extended Friday through Feb. 15.

After its expiration, however, nonprofit organizations and UC Berkeley students were impacted. Though students have been affected, the campus PATH to Care Center has been able to prevent the suffering caused by the act’s expiration for a number of women on campus, said ASUC External Affairs Vice President and campus senior Nuha Khalfay in an email.

According to the Journal of Women’s Health, the aim of the Violence Against Women Act was to serve the millions of women who experience domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Since its origins in 1994, the act has provided funding for the investigation and persecution of such crimes. It also funds support for women who have suffered from domestic and sexual violence.

“I think the expiration of the act is disgusting and reflective of a broader political trend of diminishing protections for survivors,” said ASUC Senator Zachary Carter in an email.

According to Elizabeth Arutyunyan, a campus senior and survivor of domestic violence who is facilitating the “Domestic Violence, Abuse and Laws” DeCal course, there are more vulnerable demographics within the larger community who suffer more than others, including people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

These inequalities are some of the topics explored in the DeCal, along with discussions surrounding the extent to which certain legal measures, including the Violence Against Women Act, are effective.

She added that many nonprofit organizations have suffered as a result of the act’s expiration and have since struggled to find alternative sources of funding.

“I come from a home of domestic violence,” Arutyunyan said, adding that many people do not really understand what it really means to endure domestic violence. “I’m a survivor, and I’m lucky to be.”

Arutyunyan said that while the act aims to aid women in their transition to a safer space and provides women with many resources including emergency shelters, women still suffer “burdens of hardship.” This ultimately makes it more difficult for many women to report their abuser or leave the abusive relationship, according to Arutyunyan.

Arutyunyan added that the people who draft legislation to mitigate issues for domestic violence are rarely people who have had to endure it themselves.

Despite her hopes for the future, Arutyunyan said she is fearful that the act’s expiration may make society decline into old ways of thinking.

“My fear is always that we’re going to have a decline back into thinking domestic violence is a family matter,” Arutyunyan said. “It’s a public issue.”

Contact Mallika Seshadri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.

A previous version of this article may have implied that the Violence Against Women Act doesn’t fund programs to help survivors psychologically. In fact, the act does fund these programs.