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The V Word: Update on bills through the VA General Assembly session for Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

Today Carol gives an update on what bills are progressing through the Virginia General Assembly that impact survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

Agencies tracking these bills and providing opportunities to engage are:

Virginia Legislative Information System

The Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance 

 

 

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New Campus Sexual Assault Laws in Virginia

Today’s show is about the new sexual assault laws going into effect this month across Virginia.

You can listen to the show here

HB 1785. Campus police departments; sexual assault reporting. The law requires that mutual aid agreements between a campus police force and a law-enforcement agency require either the campus police force or the agency with which it has established a mutual aid agreement to notify the local attorney for the Commonwealth within 48 hours of beginning any investigation involving felony criminal sexual assault occurring on campus property or other property related to the institution of higher education. The law also requires institutions of higher education that have security departments instead of campus police forces to enter into a memorandum of understanding with a law-enforcement agency that requires similar notification to the local attorney for the Commonwealth.

HB 1930/SB 712. Institutions of higher education; reporting acts of sexual violence. The law requires any responsible employee of a public or private nonprofit institution of higher education who in the course of his employment obtains information that an act of sexual violence has been committed against a student or on campus property or other property related to the institution to report such information to the Title IX coordinator for the institution as soon as practicable, who must in turn report such information to a review committee that is required to meet within 72 hours of the receipt of such information. If the review committee determines that disclosure of the information regarding the alleged act of sexual violence is necessary to protect the health and safety of the victim or other individuals, the information, including personally identifiable information, must be reported to the law-enforcement agency responsible for investigating the alleged act. In addition, the law requires the governing board of each public or private nonprofit institution of higher education to (i) establish a written memorandum of understanding with a local sexual assault crisis center or other victim support service and (ii) adopt policies to provide victims with information on contacting such center or service. The law requires each public or private nonprofit institution of higher education to annually certify to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia that it has reviewed its sexual violence policy and requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services to monitor and report on the impact of the legislation on the workload of local victim witness programs.

SB 1193. Academic transcripts; suspension, permanent dismissal, or withdrawal from institution. The law requires the registrar of certain public and private institutions of higher education, or the other employee, office, or department of the institution that is responsible for maintaining student academic records, to include a prominent notation on the transcript of each student who has been suspended for, has been permanently dismissed for, or withdraws from the institution while under investigation for an offense involving sexual violence, defined as physical sexual acts committed against a person’s will or against a person incapable of giving consent, under the institution’s code, rules, or set of standards governing student conduct. Any notation due to a student’s suspension must be removed if the student completed the term and conditions of the suspension and has been determined by the institution to be in good standing.

Need to find a local sexual assault or rape crisis center near your school?  Look at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance List of Member Agencies to find local centers.

Repost from VSDVAA: Legislative Update – 2015 Virginia General Assembly

The Virginia General Assembly regular session ended on February 28, 2015. Below is an update on the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance’s (Action Alliance) priorities and other key legislation of interest to our constituency. Legislation that has passed must still be approved by the Governor and may be subject to additional amendments. In most cases, the Governor has until March 29th to act on the legislation. The Governor’s amendments and vetoed legislation will be considered by the General Assembly during the reconvened session in April.

When available, we have noted the Action Alliance’s position on the legislation. For actual votes and language of the bills, please click on the link provided. Please note that we only provided links to legislation that is still active. Unless noted in the law, legislation becomes effective July 1, 2015.

PASSED LEGISLATION AWAITING GOVERNOR’S APPROVAL

Crime Commission—Sexual and Domestic Violence Study

SB1094 (Chief Patron: Sen. Howell)
HB2092 (Chief Patron: Del. Peace; Chief Co-Patron McClellan)
Supported by the Action Alliance. Establishes the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Program Professional Standards Committee and requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services to administer its activities by providing technical assistance and administrative support. This Committee is tasked with establishing voluntary accreditation standards and procedures by which local sexual and domestic violence programs can be systematically measured and evaluated with a peer-reviewed process. An Advisory Committee on Sexual and Domestic Violence is also established and has the responsibility for advising and assisting state and local entities on matters related to the prevention and reduction of sexual and domestic violence and to promote the efficient administration of grant funds.

Campus Response

SB712 (Chief Patron: Senator Black; Chief Co-Patrons: Senators Deeds, Saslaw, & Barker)
HB1930 (Chief Patron: Delegate Bell; Chief Co-Patrons: Delegates Albo & Gilbert)
Supported by the Action Alliance.
Requires any responsible employee of a public or private nonprofit institution of higher education who in the course of his employment obtains information that an act of sexual violence has been committed against a student or on campus property or other property related to the institution to report such information to the Title IX coordinator for the institution as soon as practicable. The bill provides several exceptions to the reporting requirements, including when information is obtained through any communication considered privileged under state or federal law, including communications received by licensed health care professionals, counselors, accredited rape crisis or domestic violence counselors, campus victim support personnel, clergy, or attorneys.

The Title IX Coordinator must report such information to a review committee, which shall meet within 72 hours of the receipt of information of an alleged act of sexual violence. The review committee shall include the Title IX coordinator, a representative of law enforcement, and a student affairs representative and conduct its review in compliance with federal privacy laws that protect student privacy. The Title IX Coordinator must disclose information regarding the alleged act of sexual violence, including personally identifiable information, to the law-enforcement agency responsible for investigating the alleged act if the Title IX Coordinator determines such disclosure is necessary to protect the health and safety of the community.

The bill requires the governing board of each public or private institution of higher education to (i) establish a written memorandum of understanding with a local sexual assault crisis center or other victim support service and (ii) adopt policies to provide victims with information on contacting such center or service.

The bill also provides that each institution shall ensure that a victim of an alleged act of sexual violence is informed of (i) the applicable federal or state confidentiality provisions that govern information provided by a victim; (ii) the available on-campus resources and any unaffiliated community resources, including sexual assault crisis centers, domestic violence crisis centers, or other victim support services; (iii) the importance of seeking appropriate medical attention; (iv) the importance of collection and preservation of evidence; (v) the available law-enforcement options for investigation and prosecution; (vi) the available options for a protective order; (vii) the available campus options for investigation and adjudication under the institution’s policies; and (viii) the victim’s rights to participate or decline to participate in any investigation to the extent permitted under state or federal law.

HB1785 (Chief Patron: Delegate Massie; Co-Chief Patron: Delegate Filler-Corn).
Supported by the Action Alliance. Requires that mutual aid agreements between a campus police force and a law-enforcement agency contain provisions requiring either the campus police force or the agency with which it has established a mutual aid agreement to notify the local attorney for the Commonwealth within 48 hours of any investigation involving felony criminal sexual assault occurring on campus property or other property related to the institution of higher education. The bill does not require law enforcement to disclose the victims’ personally identifying information. The bill also requires institutions of higher education that have security departments instead of campus police forces to enter into a memorandum of understanding with a law-enforcement agency and such memorandum of understanding shall contain similar provisions requiring reports to the local attorney for the Commonwealth.

SB1193 (Chief Patron: Senator Norment; Co-Chief Patron Senator Deeds)
Requires the registrar of certain public and private institutions of higher education, or the other employee, office, or department of the institution that is responsible for maintaining student academic records, to include a prominent notation on the transcript of each student who has been suspended for, has been permanently dismissed for, or withdraws from the institution while under investigation for a violation of the institution’s code, rules, or set of standards governing student conduct. The bill provides that any notation due to a student’s suspension shall be removed if the student completed the term of the suspension and any conditions thereof and has been determined by the institution to be in good standing. The bill exempts the Virginia Military Institution (VMI).

Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault/Stalking/Protective Orders

SB941 (Chief Patron: Senator Stuart)/HB2329 (Chief Patron: Delegate Simon)
Supported by the Action Alliance. Provides for the compensation of counsel or a guardian ad litem for the required representation of a respondent in a proceeding for the issuance of a protective order under Chapter 9.1 of Title 19.2.

HB2120 (Chief Patron: Delegate Cline)
Supported by the Action Alliance. Adds strangulation to the list of crimes charged for which there is a rebuttable presumption against admission to bail.

SJ245 (Chief Patron: Senator Favola)/HJ600 (Chief Patron: Delegate Kory)
Supported by the Action Alliance. Designates the month of April, in 2015 and in each succeeding year, as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Virginia.

SB1187 (Chief Patron: Senator Obenshain)/HB 1928 (Chief Patron: Delegate Bell)
The bill adds to the list of offenses for which an adult convicted of certain offenses must have a sample of his blood, saliva, or tissue taken for DNA analysis. The bill adds misdemeanor violations of §§ 16.1-253.2 (violation of a protective order), 18.2-60.3 (stalking), 18.2-60.4 (violation of a stalking protective order), 18.2-67.4:1 (infected sexual battery), 18.2-102 (unauthorized use of animal, aircraft, vehicle, or boat valued at less than $200), 18.2-121 (entering property of another for purpose of damaging it), 18.2-387 (indecent exposure), 18.2-387.1 (obscene sexual display), and 18.2-479.1 (resisting arrest). Under current law, a sample is taken for DNA analysis from adults convicted of only five misdemeanor sex offenses: (i) § 18.2-67.4 (sexual battery), (ii) § 18.2-67.4:2 (sexual abuse of a child 13 years of age or older but under 15), (iii) § 18.2-67.5 (attempted sexual battery), (iv) § 18.2-130 (peeping), or (v) § 18.2-370.6 (penetrating the mouth of a child under 13 with the tongue). The bill also increases the fee collected for the withdrawal of the DNA sample from $25 to $53. The provisions of the bill apply only to persons convicted on or after July 1, 2015.

SB1417 (Chief Patron: Senator Petersen)
Requires any person licensed by the Board of Counseling and operating in a nonhospital setting to post a copy of his license in a conspicuous place. The posting shall also provide clients with (i) the number of the toll-free complaint line at the Department of Health Professions, (ii) the website address of the Department for the purposes of accessing the licensee’s record, and (iii) notice of the client’s right to report to the Department if he believes the licensee may have engaged in unethical, fraudulent, or unprofessional conduct.

HB1558 (Chief Patron: Delegate Rust)
Allows for the creation of local or regional adult fatality review teams upon the initiative of any local or regional law-enforcement agency, department of social services, emergency medical services agency, attorney for the Commonwealth’s office, or community services board. The bill provides that such teams may review the death of any person age 60 years or older, or any adult age 18 years or older who is incapacitated, who resides in the Commonwealth and who is in need of temporary or emergency protective services (i) who was the subject of an adult protective services or law-enforcement investigation; (ii) whose death was due to abuse, neglect, or exploitation or acts suggesting abuse, neglect, or exploitation; or (iii) whose death came under the jurisdiction of or was investigated by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner as occurring in any suspicious, unusual, or unnatural manner. A violation of the confidentiality of the review process is punishable as a Class 3 misdemeanor.

HB1698 (Chief Patron: Delegate Wilt)
Requires each school board, in any case in a questionnaire or survey requesting that students provide sexual information, mental health information, medical information, information on student health risk behaviors, other information on controlled substance use, or any other information that the school board deems to be sensitive in nature is to be administered, to give the parent 30 days’ written notice of the nature and types of questions, the purposes and age-appropriateness of the questionnaire or survey, how such information will be used, who will have access to such information, the steps that will be taken to protect student privacy, and whether and how any findings or results will be disclosed. The bill gives the parent the right to request that an advance copy of the questionnaire or survey be sent to him, to review the document in person at the school, and to exempt his child from participation. Under current law, (i) such written notice only applies to surveys or questionnaires on sexual information and information on student health risk behaviors, (ii) the detailed contents of the notice only apply to information on student health risk behaviors, and (iii) the parent has the right to review questionnaires and surveys but no right to request that a copy be sent to him.

Human Trafficking

HB2040 (Chief Patron: Delegate Bell)
Supported by the Action Alliance. Increases from a Class 4 felony to a Class 3 felony the penalty for taking a minor, for the purposes of prostitution, into a bawdy place; persuading, encouraging or causing a minor to enter a bawdy place; or taking or causing a minor to be taken to any place for such purposes.

SB1188 (Chief Patron: Senator Obenshain; Chief Co-Patron Senator Edwards)
HB1964 (Chief Patron: Delegate Hugo; Chief Co-Patrons: Delegates Anderson, Rob Bell, and Gilbert)
Supported by the Action Alliance. Creates new felonies for trafficking of persons for commercial sexual activity. The bill provides that any person who solicits, invites, recruits, encourages, or otherwise causes or attempts to cause a person to engage in prostitution with the intent to receive money or other valuable thing or to assist another in receiving money or other valuable thing from the earnings of the solicited person from an act of prostitution is guilty of a Class 5 felony. Felonies are increased if such behavior is done by an adult and the person solicited is a minor (Class 3 felony) and if force, intimidation, or deception is used against the person solicited (Class 4 felony). The new crime was added to the definition of violent felony for the purposes of the sentencing guidelines, predicate criminal acts for street gangs, the Virginia Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organization Act, multijurisdiction grand jury, and asset forfeiture and, if a minor is solicited, the Sex Offender Registry. The bill also amends two existing Code sections on receiving money for procuring a person for prostitution and receiving money from the earnings of a person engaged in prostitution to increase penalties if the crime involves a minor.

DEFEATED LEGISLATION

Funding Increase for Sexual Assault Victim Services

Budget Amendments #389 1s (Senator Vogel) & #389 1h (Chief Patron: Delegate Peace)

Employment Protections for Victims

SB 990 (Chief Patron: Senator Lucas)/HB1945 (Chief Patron: Delegate McClellan)
HB1430 (Chief Patron: Delegate Herring)
HB2150 (Chief Patron: Delegate Yancey)

Firearm Restrictions Related to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking

SB943 (Chief Patron: Senator Favola)/HB 2085 (Chief Patron: Delegate Murphy)
SB909 (Chief Patron: Senator Howell)/HB 2045 (Chief Patron: Delegate Filler-Corn)
HB2328 (Chief Patron: Delegate Simon)

Stalking

SB1297 (Chief Patron: Senator McEachin)/HB1453 (Chief Patron: Delegate Miller)
HB1902 (Chief Patron: Delegate Lopez)

To learn more about any of these defeated bills, please visit http://lis.virginia.gov/ and click on “Bills & Resolutions” to search by bill number.

If you have questions, please contact Kristine Hall at khall@vsdvalliance.org or 804-377-0335.

About the Action Alliance
The Action Alliance has been Virginia’s leading voice on sexual and domestic violence for 30 years and enhances response and prevention efforts through training, public policy advocacy, public awareness programs, and technical assistance to professionals. To find out more about the Action Alliance, call 804.377.0335, e-mail:info@vsdvalliance.org, or visit us on the web: www.vsdvalliance.org. You may also call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 (v/tty).

Support funding for Sexual and Domestic Violence to be increased in Virginia budget

The Virginia House and Senate have come back to Richmond to finalize the state budget.  They are dealing with a shortfall and additional cuts to the budget.  Help me make sure that funding for sexual and domestic violence remains a priority.

Below is a list of Senate Finance and House Appropriations members – call/email to show support for sexual and domestic violence services, thank them for supporting an increase, ask them to increase funding.  These funds will go to centers all over the state to provide needed services for Rape Crisis Centers, Domestic Violence Programs, Hotlines, Advocacy and other services for survivors.

 

Delegate Chris Jones (R-Suffolk)  — (757) 483-6242  —  elCJones@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Steven Landes (R-Augusta)   —  (540) 255-5335  —  DelSLandes@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Kirkland “Kirk” Cox (R-Colonial Heights)  —  (804) 526-5135  —  DelKCox@house.virginia.gov
Delegate John M. O’Bannon, III (R-Henrico)  —  (804) 282-8640  —  DelJOBannon@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Thomas A. “Tag” Greason (R-Loudoun)  —  (703) 203-3203  —  DelTGreason@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Johnny S. Joannou (D-Portsmouth)  —  (757) 399-1700  —  DelJJoannou@house.virginia.gov

Senator Walter A. Stosch (R-District 12)  —  (804) 527-7780  —  district12@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Charles J. Colgan (D-District 29)  —  (703) 368-0300  —  district29@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Janet D. Howell (D-District 32)  —  (703) 709-8283  —  district32@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-District 3)  —  (757) 259-7810  —  district03@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. (R-District 24)  —  (540) 885-6898  —  district24@senate.virginia.gov
Senator John C. Watkins (R-District 10)  —  (804) 379-2063  —  district10@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D-District 35)  —  (703) 978-0200  —  district35@senate.virginia.gov

 

Thanks to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance for the information and their advocacy.  If you have questions, please contact Kristine Hall at khall@vsdvalliance.org or 804-377-0335

We still need to get VAWA passed in the United States! Keep the momentum going..

One Billion Rising events are just the beginning.  Keep the momentum going and continue your activism to create the change we want.

VAWA has passed the Senate and now it needs to pass the House.  Help us get is passed, join V-DAY’s plan to get VAWA passed by International Women’s Day on March 8th.  Why is VAWA so important? LEARN more

Want to get started?  It’s simple – click this link (made easy by Feminist Majority), put in your zip code and find out who you need to contact in your area to ask that VAWA be passed.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence updates a list of current supporters in Congress here – Thank them for their support of this important initiative and outreach those who have not yet decided to stand up for survivors and put their vote to VAWA.

V-DAY has some great suggestions to keep the momentum going, see the repost below:

THIS Week:
Organize an event in your communities! Your representatives are currently at home and they need to see the support and feel the pressure of their constituents. You can do this event anywhere and the event can be anything:

  • You’ve already got your dancing shoes on so hold a RISE for VAWA flash mob!
  • Hold a rally in a public space (town square, local mall, town hall etc) and invite local activists to speak about the importance of VAWA and ending violence against women and girls
  • Protest outside of government offices and buildings
  • Hold a concert, open mic night, theatrical production, etc to support VAWA and those working to get it passed

Any of these options and more will help highlight the support for VAWA in your community.

NEXT Week:

Starting on Monday February 25th, your representatives will be back in Washington D.C. We are urging you ALL to flood their telephone lines and email inboxes with messages of support for VAWA. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

RISE for VAWA ACTION CENTER:
DOWNLOAD the RISE for VAWA Poster >

Don’t forget to invite the press! The more support our representatives see for VAWA the greater the chance for success!! Check out our One Billion Rising Media Tips >

 

Domestic Violence and Guns: A Lethal Combination

reposted from the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance 

According to the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, intimate partner homicide increased by 21% in 2010 and 60.5% of IPV victims were killed with a firearm.  Between 2006 and 2010 intimate partner homicides in the Commonwealth increased by 64% while the overall homicide rate was going down. (1)

Recognizing  the significant risk that exists when a perpetrator of domestic violence has access to firearms, the Action Alliance suports laws that prohibit the purchase, transport and possession of firearms for persons subject to protective orders and/or who have been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member.  Additionally, we support attempt to give law enforcement officers and prosecutors additional tools to remove or force the surrender of firearms when these conditions are present.

The Virginia General Assembly has recognized that firearms pose a significant risk to victims of domestic violence and stalking by enacting laws that prohibit the purchase or transport of firearms when a person is subject to a protective order.  The Action Alliance urges Members of the General Assembly to support legislation that prohibits the purchase, transport, and possession of firearms for persons who have been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member and persons subject to protective orders and to oppose any efforts to weaken these protections.

Support HB 1410 (Del. J. Scott)  This bill prohibits any person who is convicted of stalking, sexual battery, or assault and battery of a family member that results in seriou bodily injury from possessing, transporting, or carrying a firearm or any other weapon for a period of five years following his conviction.  A violation would constitute a Class 6 felony.  the bill also provides for the forfeiture of any weapon possessed, transported, or carried in violation of the prohibition.  Finally, the bill provides for a process by which a violator may petition the circuit court for a reinstatement of his/her rights to possess, transport, or carry a weapon.

Support SB 864 (Sen. Favola)  This bill prohibits any person subject to an emergency protective order pursuant to subsection C of 18.2-57.2 to physically possess a firearm while in the residence of the alleged victim or transport a firearm  while such an order is in effect.

 

(1) 2010 Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Report.  Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Virginia Department of Health. October 2012.  

for more information, contact Kristine Hall at khall@vsdvalliance.org or 804-377-0335 (January 2013)

 

Good news for military: the National Defense Authorization Act is signed

Here is some positive news for advocates against sexual and domestic violence. This week, after much anticipation, President Obama signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. This includes 19 amendments to significantly reform Department of Defense sexual assault and sexual harassment policies.

This bill is significant in that it has the largest number of sexual violence provisions ever signed into law. The Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) have worked tirelessly for two years to advocate for these changes. While the NDAA is a bill that focuses on the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense (DOD), It also deals with multiple military issues. It is the mechanism used by Congress to provide oversight and mandate change within the military.

Again, SWAN’s advocacy work is key as they provide bipartisan legislative recommendations to both the House and Senate to improve the welfare of service women and women veterans. Kudos to SWAN and their advocacy to introduce more provisions based to improve the way the military handles sexual assault and sexual harassment in the ranks. Specifically, the law now provides for:

  • Prohibiting the military from recruiting anyone convicted of a sex offense
  • Mandatory separation of convicted sex offenders
  • Insurance coverage for abortions in cases of rape or incest for service women and military family members
  • Retention of restricted report documentation for 50 years if so desired by the victim
  • The creation of “Special Victims Units” to improve investigation, prosecution and victim support in connection with child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault cases
  • Allowing victims to return to active duty after separation to help prosecute sex offenders
  • The creation of an independent review panel comprised of civilian and military members that will closely examine the way that the DOD investigates, prosecutes, and adjudicates sexual assaults
  • Required sexual assault prevention training in pre-command and command courses for officers
  • Improved data collection and reporting by the military on sexual assault and sexual harassment cases
  • Annual command climate assessment surveys to track individual attitudes toward sexual assault and sexual harassment
  • A review of unrestricted sexual assault reports and the nature of any subsequent separations of victims who made those reports
  • Notification to service members of the options available for the correction of military records due to any retaliatory personnel action after making a report of sexual assault or sexual harassment
  • Requirement for DOD to establish a policy for comprehensive sexual harassment prevention and response
  • Language that will allow better oversight and tracking of DOD’s implementation of sexual assault provisions from prior Defense Authorizations in order to ensure they are being enforced properly

SWAN’s goal is to eradicate sexual assault and sexual harassment through the transformation of military culture. The passage of the 2013 NDAA is another critical step in moving the military one step closer to change.

Please consider making a gift to help SWAN end sex discrimination and promote equality and justice in the military!

About SWAN
SWAN is a nonpartisan civil rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN’s works to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and freedom to serve without discrimination, harassment or assault; and to reform veterans’ services to ensure high quality health care and benefits for women veterans and their families.

Service Women’s Action Network | 220 E. 23rd Street | Suite 509 | New York | NY | 10010

Some articles posted by SWAN

Read the New York Times story on the relationship between Maxim magazine and the military.
Click here to read The Daily Beast’s coverage of the passage of the Shaheen Amendment.

Watch this Al-Jazeera clip on the VA Military Sexual Assault Claims process here.

Check out this Federal News Radio piece here on the rise in reported sexual assaults at military service academies.

The Violence Against Women Act Dies…. Did one person kill it?

Apparently The Violence Against Women Act died last night.  How could this happen?  How does a country founded on freedom and equal rights continue to deny that very thing to certain people?  How can House Majority Leader Eric Cantor have supported such a bill while he was seemingly working to support other non-partisan efforts.

For those just tuning in, one of the items up for consideration at the conclusion of the 112th Congress was the Senate bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, otherwise known as VAWA.  This act was originally passed in 1994.  This time when it came up for renewal, the Senate version had newly added tribal protections for American Indian women, granting tribes limited authority to prosecute sexual-assault crimes on their lands–whether the crimes are committed by American Indians or not.  Eric Cantor campaigned against this version of the bill.  Instead, Cantor offered up a version which excluded the new American Indian protections, along with those for undocumented immigrants as well as lesbian and trans women, which the House passed.

Eric Cantor did not offer up any reasons for his actions to deny every woman in America the same legal protections against violent perpetrators.   When MSNBC reported this story, they listed the following quotes:

  •  In December on Melissa Harris-Perry, National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill said the fight was “draining the resources of the advocacy groups that have been working on re-authorization for two solid years. Many of the advocacy groups also provide services; their resources are being drained. I don’t think that’s a mistake.”
  • The chief Democratic advocate for the VAWA reauthorization, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, released a statement that was reported in Jezebel:  “The House Republican leadership’s failure to take up and pass the Senate’s bipartisan and inclusive VAWA bill is inexcusable. This is a bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate and that extends the bill’s protections to 30 million more women. But this seems to be how House Republican leadership operates. No matter how broad the bipartisan support, no matter who gets hurt in the process, the politics of the right wing of their party always comes first.”

Can a representative for the people, and the GOP,  really be so indifferent to the rights of women?  Is what O’Neill suggested, a desire and plan to exhaust advocacy groups and their resource, really true?  Why be determined to so actively block equal protections for only certain groups of women: Native American, Undocumented Immigrants, and those who identify as Lesbian and Transgender?   Don’t you want to demand an explanation?

Feel free to contact his office and ask. http://cantor.house.gov/contact

It’s Time to Ask: What will Congress do to get VAWA passed

Domestic Violence Awareness Month
It’s time to ask–What will Congress do to get VAWA passed

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and an ideal time to ask Virginia’s Congressional Delegation to commit to passing VAWA as a matter of priority during the lame duck session. The recent report from the Office of Chief Medical Examiner indicates that while homicides in Virginia have gone down, intimate partner homicides in Virginia have increased by an alarming amount–21% between 2009 and 2010.

Requested Action
Email, call, tweet, or tell your Members of Congress (who are now back in their districts until after the elections) this simple message:

“October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We all play a role in ending domestic violence. Congress’s role is to pass VAWA – lifesaving legislation that has transformed the way our nation addresses violence against women. It is essential that a strong, bipartisan VAWA, that safely and effectively meets the needs of all victims, is promptly reauthorized after the elections. Will you commit to passing VAWA as a matter of priority during the lame duck session?”

Use the tweets below, post on Facebook/websites, and/or have this conversation when you see your Members of Congress at events.

Oct is #DVAM2012 . Do your part to end violence against women. Let’s pass #VAWA

Support #DVAM2012! Commit to passing a #VAWA that safely and effectively meets the needs of all victims.

Fact: #VAWA saves lives! Reauthorization must be a priority after the elections

The Background
Despite our collective hard work urging Congress to pass VAWA, they did not do so before they left for recess. As you know, passing major legislation can be contentious in an election year and VAWA’s reauthorization became more politicized than it ever had been in the past. There is still an opportunity, however, for Congress to reauthorize VAWA after the elections (during the “lame duck” session). With the combination of additional pressure from you throughout October and the work of NNEDV and others at the national level, we believe that it is very likely that Congress will act on VAWA upon their return.

So keep up the pressure right through this election cycle—urge your Member of Congress to prioritize post-election passage of a VAWA reauthorization bill that safely and effectively protects all victims.

Click here to find your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Click here to find your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm/

About the Action Alliance
The Action Alliance has been Virginia’s leading voice on sexual and domestic violence for 30 years and enhances response and prevention efforts through training, public policy advocacy, public awareness programs, and technical assistance to professionals. To find out more about the Action Alliance, call 804.377.0335, e-mail:info@vsdvalliance.org, or visit us on the web: http://www.vsdvalliance.org. You may also call the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-838-8238 (v/tty).

Address postal inquiries to:
Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alli
5008 Monument Ave.
Ste. A
Richmond, VA 23230
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