After a few weeks of back and forth about the Violence Against Women Act later, the Senate seems finally ready to finish work on it and vote today. But why so much debate?
The Violence Against Women Act first passed in 1994, and has since been reauthorized twice – in 2000 and 2005. It is up for reauthorization once again, and though historically VAWA has had broad bipartisan support, a few provisions that address the needs of marginalized populations in the United States – in this case, Native Americans, immigrants, and LGBTQ folks – have been singled out and targeted for opposition. Namely, these provisions would:
- Provides tribes jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native persons accused of IPV against Native partners within their territories
- Include LGBT persons in its definition of “underserved populations,” and make funds obtained through VAWA subject to non-discrimination provisions including sexual orientation and gender identity
- Include support programs specifically for immigrant communities, such as increasing the number of U-Visas (visas available through VAWA for immigrants abused by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents), expanding U Visa qualifying crimes, allowing anyone at a law enforcement agency to provide certifications for U visas, and providing a possibility for people who can’t get law enforcement certifications to still apply for U visas if they have enough evidence.
The fact that these are sticking points is absolutely absurd. Approximately 1.5 million women from all walks of life experience intimate partner violence (IPV), and the impact of IPV on communities of color and LGBT communities should not be understated. Though no studies demonstrate that IPV is higher in immigrant communities than the community at large, Latina and Asian immigrant women are overrepresented among IPV-related homicide victims. IPV among LGBTQ people occurs, but is often ignored and even turned away from services. And in their lifetimes, 24% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped, and 39% will be subjected to domestic violence.
That members of Congress have taken issue with provisions that would increase the safety of these populations ignores reality and is an affront to justice. Each year, the lives of thousands of women, children, and others who survive intimate partner violence are made safer by VAWA and the programs it has created. On their behalf, it is imperative that these provisions stay in the bill, and that VAWA grows along with the times.
Urge your Senators to pass VAWA with these provisions today. We cannot afford to ignore our communities’ realities. Please take action!