More than just having an Oscar-winning acting career, Angelina Jolie is known for her ability to voice her thoughts through activism — and she’s using that voice to speak up about domestic violence and child abuse. The actress, filmmaker, humanitarian and UN special envoy for refugees is praising the US’s recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) — and urging us to do more.
In a speech to Congress at the White House on Feb. 9 (prior to the reinstatement of the act), Jolie shared statistics regarding the matters, urging the U.S. senators to reauthorize the VAWA, which President Joe Biden vowed during his campaign would be passed within the first 100 days of his presidency.
“The reason that many people struggle to leave abusive situations is that they’ve been made to feel worthless,” said Jolie. “When there is silence from a Congress too busy to renew the Violence Against Women Act for a decade, it reinforces that sense of worthlessness. You think, ‘I guess my abuser’s right, I guess I’m not worth very much.’”
What is the Violence Against Women’s Act?
The VAWA is a landmark 1994 US law that implements programs for states to be able to provide housing and services to victims of domestic abuse. The law was reinstated in 2013 but expired in 2019 as the result of disputes over key provisions.
After advocating for an updated version of the VAWA, Jolie told NBC News on Wednesday that it was “a long time coming.”
What’s changed within the updated act?
The improved VAWA will grant programs until 2027, and it will now include Kayden’s Law, named in honour of seven-year-old Kayden Mancuso who was brutally murdered by her father in 2018 — a murder-suicide that happened during an unsupervised visit.
Kayden’s Law will specialize in how family courts handle custody cases; taking the steps that were missed in the family’s case, implementing them in a way that prevents these situations from reoccurring by diving further into abuse allegations, improving the training provided to judges in charge of custody disputes, and new outlining required in order to provide expert testimony on abuse.
The provisions will offer exclusive support to LGBTQIA survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, creating the primary grant program that is committed to expanding and developing support.
In addition, the VAWA has increased its culturally specific services through the development of forensic evidence collection and tools which detect bruising and other possible injuries on people with darker skin tones.
The updated act will include many other revisions: expanding special criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts, the expansion of prevention education for students, increasing services and support for survivors from marginalized communities and more.
Jolie, a mother of six, said the passing of this law was “personal.”
“It is personal to everyone,” said Jolie. “Everyone who cares about family, everyone who cares about children, everyone who cares about their own safety and the health of their community.”
Jolie campaigned to pass the law; strengthening its authorities after her own divorce and litigation with ex-husband Brad Pitt led her into the world of family court systems, one which she vouches to be broken.
Along with this achievement, Jolie is also focusing her activism on displaced families around the world — in places like Ukraine and Yemen — as she continues to travel around the world fighting for human rights.
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