New VAWA extends protections to LGBT, Native American, immigrant, student and sex trafficking victims
On Thursday, Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter, D-NY, an original author of the landmark Violence Against Women Act, hailed the House of Representatives' bipartisan 286-138 vote to strengthen VAWA and extend the law's protections to LGBT, Native American and immigrant victims.
"This is truly an historic day in our ongoing effort to eliminate domestic violence in America," Slaughter said. "When we first passed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, we set out to end the destructive cycle of domestic violence and bring millions of victims out of the shadows. And every time we've renewed the law, our goal has been the same: to ensure that all victims of domestic violence - no matter their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their age or their gender - are acknowledged, helped and protected by the law. The measure passed today meets that goal and ensures that our government will never turn its back on any victim of domestic violence."
The new law protects all victims of domestic and dating violence, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, provides authority to Native American tribes to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators for crimes related to domestic, dating violence and violations of protecting orders, and adds stalking to the list of crimes for which immigrant victims can receive protection through the U-Visa program. In addition to these expanded protections, the new bill also includes authorizations for programs preventing human trafficking, sexual assault on college campuses, as well as additional resources to address rape kit backlogs.
Slaughter said the previous authorization of the Violence Against Women Act had expired in 2011, and for more than 500 days, the Republican leadership in the House blocked the law's reauthorization over disagreements regarding protecting LGBT, immigrant and Native American victims. Earlier this month, the Senate passed an inclusive and expanded version of VAWA by a margin of 78-22, with every Democratic senator, every female senator, and a majority of Republican senators voting for the measure. By contrast, Slaughter said the House GOP leadership unveiled a partisan and discriminatory VAWA bill that did not include the same crucial protections of the Senate bill. When it became clear that the Senate's version of the law would garner a majority in the House, however, the GOP leadership finally brought the measure to the floor, where it passed by a 286-138 margin, with all Democrats and 87 Republicans supporting the Senate bill.
Slaughter and her former colleague, Rep. Pat Schroeder, were co-authors of the original Violence Against Women Act that was enacted in 1994. Since its enactment, incidents of domestic violence have decreased by 64 percent, including a 24 percent reduction in the number of women killed by an intimate partner. More than 1 million women have used the justice system to obtain protective orders against their batterers, and countless others have utilized the law to protect themselves and their loved ones from further violence.