By Olivia Garcia, Ph.D.
Policy advocacy has two speeds: slow and really fast. Legislation and system change is typically a long game that can take years before a small, minor piece falls into place that allows greater movement.
Yesterday was an exceptional day because, after years of advocacy efforts with lawmakers, their staff, and service providers, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were present as the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 officially became law (see Office for Victims of Crime announcement). The law will allow the Crime Victim Fund to be replenished with funds and so help more survivors of crime receive access to healing services.
It was my first time at the White House AND my first time out in a work event since the beginning of the pandemic. I was so excited to see colleagues outside of a Zoom box but also overwhelmed by my surroundings. I got to connect with a variety of leaders like Senator Klobuchar (MN) and Senator Leahy (VT). The room was also filled with members of the White House Gender Policy Council, including my former supervisor Rosie Hidalgo, now White House Senior Advisor, and some instrumental Hill staffers that helped move VOCA from Congress to the President’s desk. Let’s just say it was quite the re-entry event!
President Biden provided these remarks and he emphasized how important VOCA funds are for victims and in particular sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. I am hoping this is a signal that bipartisan work is coming along to also reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act. We still have a long road ago, but today’s victory certainly fueled my passion for continued advocacy for Latin@ survivors.