VAWA Reauthorization Conference

November 15, 2011 - 12 AM

A.S., 3L

Six months ago as I was finishing an editorial about gender violence for a legal blog, a fellow classmate asked me if I planned on writing an editorial about the upcoming Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization in 2011. I thought that was a great idea and started researching. However, as I learned about the current landscape of this field, I realized how rich and complex the issues were. There were too many issues to write about in just one editorial, but perhaps a conference on VAWA….

Thus the idea for the VAWA Revisited: Violence Against Women in 2011 conference was born. My classmate and I compiled a wish list of speakers we would like to come speak at Yale—nearly all who ended up coming. We also brainstormed about issues and settled on these three panels:

  • What do we mean by ‘Violence Against Women’?
  • Rights, Power, History, and Status Inequality
  • Intimate Violence and the Family

After we had a formed idea of the conference, we wrote to the law school administration to request funding. Within weeks, the school granted our budget and we were on our way. For the next six months, my classmate and I worked hard to plan every aspect of the conference – from catering to advertising to helping our speakers develop their pieces of scholarship on VAWA that would ultimately be published in the Yale Law Journal Online.

All our work paid off last week as we saw the YLS campus come alive with over 100 conference participants and thirteen speakers who are the leaders in the VAWA arena. Our keynote speaker was the dynamic Victoria Nourse, the principal drafter of the original VAWA legislation under then-Senator and now-Vice President Joe Biden. Among our speakers were Larry Sager, Dean of the University of Texas Law School, and Julie Goldscheid, who argued in front of the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Morrison. I’m not sure I would have had such a hands-on, self-directed experience anywhere else.