As part of her floor speech pushing to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) on Wednesday, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) told the story of her own history of being sexually assaulted during her childhood and then raped as a young woman.
"Violence against women is as American as apple pie," she told colleagues. "I know, not only as a legislator, but from personal experience. Domestic violence has been a thread throughout my personal life, up to and including being a child repeatedly sexually assaulted, up to and including being an adult who's been raped."
The VAWA has been met with some resistance from Republicans. The bill would renew grants to U.S. domestic violence prevention and survivor support programs, would increase availability of legal assistance to victims and would extend assistance to battered undocumented immigrants and same-sex couples.
The House Judiciary Committee's lack of support for the bill, Moore said, brought up terrible memories for her "of having boys sit in a locker room and sort of bet that I, the egg-head, couldn't be had," she said.
"And then the appointed boy, when he saw that I wasn't going to be so willing, completed a date-rape and then took my underwear to display it to the rest of the boys," she continued. "I mean, this is what American women are facing."
Since Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have not allowed Democrats to bring up the VAWA as a standalone bill, Democrats tried to attach it to the vote on the GOP budget proposal on Wednesday afternoon. But Republicans voted unanimously to end debate on the budget bill before Democrats could do so.
While some Republicans, such as Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), have pledged their support for reauthorizing the VAWA, others said the bill touches on too many controversial subjects, which distract from the bill's purpose of protecting battered women. For instance, that it creates avenues for battered undocumented immigrants to claim temporary visas and extends domestic violence protections to same-sex couples makes it tough for some conservatives to support.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who opposed the latest version last month in the judiciary committee, told The New York Times that he thinks Democrats have politicized the bill on purpose to make the GOP look anti-women.
"I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition," he said. "You think that's possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn't support, that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?".