By KARLA POMEROY
The initial budget impact for Big Horn County C.A.R.E.S. won’t be felt right away with the 112th House of Representatives not passing the Violence Against Women Act. However, the bigger impact is the laws and policies that usually accompany the funding in the VAWA renewal bill.
VAWA was first approved in 1994 under the leadership of then-Senator Joe Biden. According to the whitehouse.gov fact sheet on VAWA, “This landmark federal legislation’s comprehensive approach to violence against women combined tough new provisions to hold offenders accountable with programs to provide services for the victims of such violence.”
CARES Director Leslie Hoffman said this week that VAWA funds make up only about 4 percent of their budget, $8,825, to be exact. She said it all goes toward salaries for the four employees of the victims advocacy organization.
“We haven’t been getting anything reimbursed since Oct. 1,” Hoffman said. “It’s not a huge amount and we can probably work around it this year.”
However, she said if VAWA is not approved by the 113th Congress, then there may be further financial implications. She said there are some organizations in Wyoming that center their services on domestic violence and sexual assault victims so they receive more VAWA funds. CARES works with victims of all crimes.
If the other organizations lose VAWA funding then the victims funding will be redistributed and Big Horn County’s funding will likely be cut, she said, adding that the “reapportionment would be the only fair thing to do. I don’t know for sure that’s what’s going to happen but I don’t know what else they can do for funding.”
Hoffman said along with helping funding victims’ organizations, “every time it’s reauthorized they put in new laws to protect women and children.”
The 2012 renewal, which was approved by the Senate but was not taken up by the House of Representatives, would have enacted some new laws that would have helped Wyoming. She said there weren’t any laws that would have impacted Big Horn County but it would have helped the Bureau of Indian Affairs investigating and prosecuting sexual assaults and domestic violence crimes on the reservations.
Current law states that Native American tribes do not have inherent criminal jurisdiction over non-Native Americans. The 2012 VAWA, Hoffman said, would have given tribes criminal jurisdiction over non-Native Americans when they commit domestic violence orsexual assault crimes against Native Americans.
Hoffman said with VAWA not renewed she is not sure about the implications of rules and laws previously enacted. The long-term impacts are still being determined, she added.
One of the biggest benefits from VAWA, Hoffman said, was it brought to mind a mindset of protecting the victims and establishing victims services and working with law enforcement. She said additional training for law enforcement in working on domestic violence and sexual assaults has been provided through VAWA.
“VAWA brings to the forefront the whole issue of domestic violence. We serve all victims regardless of gender,” Hoffman said. “We make sure everybody has services.”
She said VAWA helps fund the on-call salaries so they can respond at anytime to any victim.
Hoffman said she expects VAWA to come up with the 113th Congress but it must be approved by the Senate and the House since it’s a new Congress. She said while it is an important bill she is not sure she wants it to come up right away due to the strong division between the two parties.
“It’s sad this kind of bill would go down because of party politics. I don’t want to see that happen again,” Hoffman said.