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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

Cross-Over Report on Current Legislation in Virginia

This week was cross over, which means we are officially moving into the 2nd half of the General Assembly Session.  For the most part, its been a good session with respect to our priorities.   We are pleased that anti-strangulation is moving forward as a stand-alone crime, that a bill to keep guns out of the hands of persons convicted of domestic violence is still alive, legislation to promote inter-agency collaboration and coordination in the investigation and prosecution of campus sexual assault expected to pass, and that legislation to clarify issues regarding protective orders processes and procedures are also moving forward without resistance.  

Unfortunately, several good bills were also defeated, including legislation to enhance penalties for stalking and a bill to clarify a minor’s rights with respect to petitioning for protective orders.   We are disappointed that the anti-immigration legislation is also still alive, but will continue our work with allies to defeat these bills in the Senate.  

These are just a few of the highlights.   Summarized below is a more detailed 2012 Cross Over Report.  Kristine created a hyperlink for all bills that are still alive so that if you are interested in reading the actual language on any bill, you can “click” on the bill # and be directed to the actual bill language. 

2012 Cross Over Report

 

PROTECT FUNDING FOR CRISIS AND SAFETY SERVICES

 

Governor McDonnell maintained level funding in his proposed budget.   Neither the House nor the Senate has proposed any additional reductions in funding for sexual and domestic violence services.  However, the current budget uses one-time fund balances to replace $1.2 million in TANF funding for domestic violence services. These one-time funds will not be available in 2014 or beyond.  Thus, $1.2 million in funding for the core services that provide safety for victims of domestic violence and their children remains at risk. 

 

“PEACE BEGINS AT HOME” SPECIALIZE INTEREST LICENSE PLATE

SB 225 (Senator Herring) & HB 182 (Delegate O’Bannon) –SB 225 passed the Senate unanimously & HB 182 was continued to 2013 in the House.

Supported by the Action Alliance.  These bills authorize the issuance of revenue-sharing special license plates bearing the legend PEACE BEGINS AT HOME to support the programs of the Domestic Violence Action Alliance for the prevention of sexual and domestic violence in Virginia.  HB 182 was not continued in the House because we had not collected 450 pre-paid applications.   SB 225 will now be considered by the House and will only pass if we collect 450 pre-paid applications.   

 

ENHANCE THE PROSECUTION OF STRANGULATION

SB 459 (Senator Herring) & HB 752 (Delegate Cline)— SB 459 passed the Senate unanimously & HB 752 passed the House unanimously.  

Supported by the Action Alliance.  Both of these bills were amended to provide that any person who impedes the blood circulation or respiration of another person by applying pressure to the person’s neck and resulting in wounding or bodily injury is guilty of strangulation, a Class 6 felony.

There are minor differences between these bills.  SB 459 uses the language “willfully, knowingly, intentionally” applying pressure to the person’s neck.  HB 752 uses the language “knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully” applying pressure to the neck of such person.  The Action Alliance staff will work with the Senator Herring & Delegate Cline to align these two bills. 

 

IMPROVE VIRGINIA’S RESPONSE TO SEXUAL ASSAULT ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES

 

SB 302 (Senator Howell) & HB 965 (Delegate Rob Bell)— SB 302 passed the Senate unanimously & HB 965 passed the House unanimously.  

Supported by the Action Alliance.   These bills require campus police to enter into mutual aid agreements with a local law-enforcement agency or the State Police for cooperation in providing assistance with the investigation of deaths and alleged rapes occurring on college campuses.

 

SB 301 (Senator Howell) & HB 969 (Delegate Rob Bell)—SB 301 passed the Senate unanimously & HB 969 passed the House unanimously. 

Supported by the Action Alliance.  These bills require each attorney for the Commonwealth to invite any chiefs of campus police located within the jurisdiction to the annual SART meeting.

 

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

 

SB 224 (Senator Herring).  Passed the Senate unanimously.

Supported by the Action Alliance.  This bill provides for a Class 1 misdemeanor for a battery through the application of physical force against a member of a family or household member. This change in law is needed to apply federal firearm prohibitions appropriately to persons convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member.  This bill will now be considered by the House.

 

PROTECT THE SAFETY AND BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILDREN

 

HB 84 (Delegate Albo)— HB 84 passed the House unanimously.

Supported by the Action Alliance, as amended.  The bill was amended and no longer creates a presumption for joint custody.  Instead, it requires judge’s to communicate the basis for their decision regarding custody or visitation and to communicate the relevant statutory factors used to determine the best interests of the child when making the decision.  This bill will now be considered by the Senate.

 

HB 606 (Delegate LeMunyon)— HB 606 was defeated.   

Opposed by the Action Alliance.  Establishes a presumption in child custody cases that an award of joint legal custody, with physical custody, to the extent feasible, shared equally between the parties, is in the best interests of the child.

 

ADVANCE VIRGINIA’S PROTECTIVE ORDER LAWS

 

SB 445 (Senator Vogel) & HB 1033 (Delegate McClellan)— SB 445 passed the Senate unanimously & HB 1033 passed the House unanimously.  

Supported by the Action Alliance.  These bills allow Circuit Court to hear petitions to modify, dissolve, or extend a permanent protective order when the Circuit Court issued the order. The bill also requires the Court to enter and transfer identifying information to the Virginia Criminal Information Network (VCIN) system when a protective order is issued. Circuit court clerks who are not currently using the Statewide Case Management System shall provide protective orders directly to the Virginia Criminal Information Network in an electronic format approved by the Department of State Police. This bill seeks to align the process and procedures for protective orders issued in Circuit Court with those currently  in place for the Juvenile & Domestic Relations and General District Court.

 

SB 300 (Senator Howell)— SB 300 passed the Senate unanimously.

Supported by the Action Alliance.  This bill makes various changes to the provisions governing protective orders issued by a Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, including (i) clarifying that only violations related to trespass, criminal offenses, acts of abuse, or prohibited contacts are Class 1 misdemeanors; (ii) clarifying that Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts have jurisdiction over all protective orders that involve juveniles who are petitioners or respondents; and (iii) allowing judges to prohibit contact between the respondent and the petitioner’s family.  This bill will now be considered by the House.

 

HB 674 (Delegate Surovell)—HB 674 was defeated in House Courts.  

Supported by the Action Alliance.  This bill would have addressed several issues regarding protective orders and minors, including (i) providing that a minor may petition for an emergency protective order on his own behalf without a parent, legal guardian, or another adult acting as a next friend; and ii) providing that any adult may petition in the name of a minor as the minor’s next friend for a preliminary and/or permanent protective order.   These provisions would have codified existing case law and are consistent with the Attorney General’s Opinion (10-116) issued in January 2011.

 

PRESERVE ACCESS TO SERVICES REGARDLESS OF IMMIGRATION STATUS

 

HB 958 (Delegate Rob Bell)—Passed the House  

Opposed by the Action Alliance.   This bill Supplements the existing law that requires sheriffs to make a query into legal presence when a person is “taken into custody” at a jail. This bill expands such inquiries by requiring inquiries of everyone arrested, and requires that an arresting officer inquire of every arrestee whether he (i) was born in a country other than the United States and (ii) is a citizen of a country other than the United States. This bill incorporates HB 89 and HB 320. This bill will now be considered by the Senate.

 

HB 1060 (Delegate Anderson)—Passed the House   

Opposed by the Action Alliance.  This bill Supplements the existing law that requires sheriffs to make a query into legal presence when a person is “taken into custody” at a jail. This bill expands such inquiries by requiring that an arresting officer inquire of every arrestee whether he is in the country legally. The bill further provides that when a law-enforcement officer believes that the person is not legally present in the United States, he shall communicate to the judicial officer the facts and circumstances underlying his belief. This bill will now be considered by the Senate.

 

HB 1001 (Delegate Ramadan)—Passed the House   

Opposed by the Action Alliance. This bill provides that the Superintendent of State Police shall seek to enter into a memorandum of agreement with United States Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as authorized under 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g), to permit the State Police to perform federal immigration law-enforcement functions in the Commonwealth after arrest of an alien. This bill will now be considered by the Senate.

 

SB 460 (Senator Black)—Defeated in Senate Courts. 

Opposed by the Action Alliance.  This bill would have provided that when a law-enforcement officer lawfully detains a person following a lawful stop, detention, or arrest of such person for a suspected criminal offense or traffic infraction or upon reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and, during the detention, based upon certain prescribed inquiries of the detainee and ICE, the officer forms a reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully present in the United States, the officer shall make a reasonable effort during the detention, when practicable, to determine whether the person is lawfully present, unless the determination would hinder or obstruct an investigation. The bill would have also sets out procedures to be followed by a judicial officer who would make a bail determination for such an arrestee.

 

STALKING

 

HB 361 (Delegate McClellan)—Defeated in House Appropriations.

Supported by the Action Alliance.  This bill would have provided that a second or subsequent offense of stalking is a Class 6 felony.  Currently, the enhanced penalty applies for a third or subsequent offense.  The bill also provides that stalking when a protective order is in effect is a Class 6 felony.

 

HB 807 (Delegate May)—Passed the House

Supported by the Action Alliance.  Provides that any person who uses an electronic tracking device through intentionally deceptive means and without consent to track the location of another person is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor. The bill includes exceptions for law-enforcement officers, the parent or legal guardian of a minor or any person authorized by the parent or legal guardian as a caretaker of the minor at any time when the minor is under the person’s sole care; a legally authorized representative of an incapacitated adult, private investigators in certain circumstances, bail bondsmen, and the owners of fleet vehicles.  This bill will now be considered by the Senate.

 

SEXUAL VIOLENCE

 

HB 963 (Delegate Rob Bell)—Passed the House unanimously. 

Supported by the Action Alliance.  This bill provides that any person who commands, entreats, or otherwise attempts to persuade another person to send, submit, transfer, or provide to him any child pornography in order to gain entry into a group, association, or assembly of persons engaged in trading or sharing child pornography shall be punished by not less than five years nor more than 20 years in a state correctional facility, with a five-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for a second or subsequent violation. This bill will now be considered by the Senate.

 

HB 964 (Delegate Rob Bell)—Passed the House unanimously.

Supported by the Action Alliance.  The bill provides that any person who displays child pornography or a grooming video or materials to a minor is guilty of a Class 6 felony. The bill defines grooming video or materials as (i) a cartoon, animation, image, or series of images depicting a child engaged in a sex act when the minor to whom the material is displayed is less than 13 years of age. This bill will now be considered by the Senate.

 

SB 205 (Senator Barker)—Passed the Senate unanimously. 

Supported by the Action Alliance.  This bill allows the collection of forensic evidence in cases of suspected sexual assault where the alleged victim may not be legally capable of giving consent.

This bill will now be considered by the House.

 

Gena M. Boyle, MPA

Domestic Violence Advocacy Coordinator

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance

804.377.0335 x2109

gboyle@vsdvalliance.org

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