This paper will summarize a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee that concerned the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The committee consulted the director of the Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women director as well as several activists and a prosecutor. The purpose of the meeting was to determine contemporary issues that women had to deal with and the most effective ways of addressing their concerns. The event proceeded in a round-table format, with the committee members occupying adjacent seats and facing the other participants, who had dedicated tables for themselves. Over the two hours of the meeting, the participants succeeded in achieving the meeting’s purposes and reached a variety of conclusions.
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Background Information and Committee Description
The committee consisted of a total of 12 senators from different jurisdictions and classes. Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Chris Coons, Dianne Feinstein, Mazie Hirono, Amy Klobuchar, and Sheldon Whitehouse represented the Democrats. John Cornyn, Mike Crapo, Chuck Grassley (the chairman), and John Neely Kennedy were Republicans (“Violence Against Women,” n.d.). The Office on Violence Against Women was created in 1995 to support VAWA nationwide by providing funding to organizations and researchers (The United States Department of Justice, 2019). The activist Amanda Nguyen was invited due to her first-hand experience with violence and the protective systems, and Tracy Prior, as well as Cindy Dyer, attended due to their knowledge of the legal system.
Meeting Discussion Topic
The relationship between civil rights and rape was a prominent topic during the meeting, as it had considerable shortfalls. Amanda Nguyen claimed that states would not disclose survivor rights, destroy untested rape kits before the statute of limitations, or refuse to provide copies of police or medical records to victims (“Violence Against Women,” n.d.). In the hearing, the Committee members would ask the witnesses questions and collect their opinions. After identifying the most significant issues, they would elaborate on them in detail by questioning the attendees further. These considerations would then be addressed further in the following meetings and work to develop an updated version of the Act for the reauthorization and improve the work that was being done by the authorities.
Key Stakeholder Positions
Female victims of violence would be the most prominent stakeholders in the meeting, as they would benefit from any improvements to the VAWA. Due to the focus of the discussion on rape, survivors of the crime would be the primary beneficiaries. Various parts of the justice system, particularly prosecutors and the police, are important parties of interest because they are responsible for the handling of the violence. The health care system would also take a stakeholder position because rape requires specialized trauma-oriented care that prevents further damage to the victim. Lastly, colleges would be stakeholders, though somewhat minor, because Title IX applies there and can cause potential harm to the victim via cross-examination. There may be other parties involved, but their roles would be insignificant compared to those listed above.
The meeting is characterized by three different sets of interactions, each of which involves a specific witness or set of weaknesses. After the initial introduction, the Committee members began questioning Katharine Sullivan, who described her Office’s general activities and recent as well as overall achievements. Next, the Senators consulted Amanda Nguyen about her experience as a rape victim and her efforts to promote legislation that would support the VAWA. Cindy Dyer and Tracy Prior interjected at that point, discussing the role of the prosecutor in the handling of a rape case. They then proceeded to discuss the specific details of the situations faced by survivors in response to the questions by the Committee members.
Outcomes of the Meeting
Overall, the meeting did not have a conclusive outcome, as its purpose was to clarify the situation instead of making any determination. With regards to that goal, the Committee members obtained sufficient clarification. The discussion between Amanda Nguyen, Cindy Dyer, and Tracy Prior created a perspective of rape from the viewpoints of both victims and law enforcement. As such, it would then be possible to identify issues and determine the methods that should be used to address them via a bipartisan process. The information would then be used by both legislators and the Office on Violence Against Women to improve the quality of the care provided to rape survivors.
The purpose of the two-hour meeting between the Committee members and the three witnesses who were called was to investigate contemporary issues that required a response. The invitees were prominent activists and two people with experience in the justice system and the handling of rape cases. That type of crime was the primary focus of the meeting, with the handling of survivors presenting a prominent concern. As such, law enforcement, the victims, and the health care system would be the most significant stakeholders in the issue. Overall, the meeting succeeded in identifying the central concerns at the time and providing a framework for various agencies to handle rape better.
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The United States Department of Justice. (2019). About the office. Web.
Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. (n.d.). Web.