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The V Word

Advocating to end sexual and domestic violence

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VAWA is stalling in the House

It is unbelievable that the Violence Against Women Act is still in debate.  If over 20 House Republicans are supporting the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate, how is it that it still won’t go through?  How can Republicans halt this non-partisan issue and historically bipartisan bill and still feel good about representing their constituency?

For those who are focusing on this issue for the first time, the reauthorization of VAWA was allowed to defunct.  The bill this year is asking for it to be reestablished and added provisions that address concerns and gaps still in existence.  These additions are not really new but rather adding a defined focus to groups of women who are even more marginalized and at risk for violence:  undocumented victims of domestic violence, LGBTQ victims of violence, and Native American victims of violence.  What the House Republicans are specifically objecting to are that; the bill increases the number of visas available to undocumented victims of domestic violence, the bill proposes to deny grant money to organizations that discriminate against LGBT victims of domestic violence, and the bill allows Native American tribal courts to prosecute non-tribe members who are accused of abusing their Native American partners.

The Senate did address one item in advance of sending it to the Hill: Senate Democrats removed the section of the draft VAWA that would have granted more visas to undocumented victims of domestic violence who cooperate with police against their abusers.  Republicans are charging that increasing the number of visas available would lead to fraud; although it is clear that law enforcement determines whether an individual has been helpful in an investigation and is therefore eligible for such a visa.  The clarification of what fraud would happen is not clear.  The National Congress of American Indians has stated that these changes (requiring the tribal courts to gain permission of the US attorney general before prosecuting a non-member) make it harder to prosecute non-tribe members and harder to protect victims of violence.  Additionally, the protections that have been in place up to now (courts can issue civil protection orders) will now have additional barriers in place to request and process these protection orders, by requiring a that a criminal threshold be met in order to exercise civil authority.  The National Congress of American Indians opposes this an unnecessary burden placed on tribal courts and an increased barrier to prosecuting perpetrators for victims.

However, this compromise was made and it passed the Senate with 78 votes.  Even with this compromise, House Republicans are still not willing to support reauthorizing protection for victims of domestic violence.  And they still are failing to fully protect under-served survivors who identify as LGBTQ by removing “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of populations who encounter barriers to services and failing to require grant funded programs to provide their services to every victim of violence, regardless of orientation and/or identity.  To further negatively impact LGBTQ victims of violence and increase their barriers to services, the bill excludes the LGBTQ community from the largest VAW grant program, STOP.  (The Centers for Disease Control has found that same-sex couples experience domestic violence at the same rates as heterosexual couples.)

Help us get VAWA passed to ensure protection for all victims of domestic violence.

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

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