In the eyes of the promoters, the re-authorization of the federal law on violence against women should be obvious.
Since its implementation in 1994, the law has generated billions of dollars for tribal, state and local governments, as well as for non-profit organizations, which work to help victims and prevent domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment across the United States. Nonetheless, hundreds of organizations providing services such as emergency shelter, legal aid and mental health therapy continue to strive to meet the demand.
Through the law, Congress typically eases some of the financial pressure by appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars – roughly $ 550 million a year – for the various programs, but expanding protections forces lawmakers to re-authorize VAWA.
In recent years, the law has been rejected by some lawmakers, lobbyists and others who oppose recognition of the rights of transgender people and oppose the protection of the guns of those convicted of abusing them. someone they dated. Prison abolitionists say the law emphasizes placing offenders behind bars, rather than rehabilitation.
The latest version of the measure, introduced in early March, was approved by the US House of Representatives. The Senate is expected to vote on its reauthorization this year, although a date has not been set.
Here’s some information on the act, as well as how to help someone who might be in danger:
– What is in the latest version of the law?
The Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act 2021 builds on a landmark 1994 law, which was passed under the leadership of then-Senate Judiciary Joe Biden . The original Violence Against Women Act was the first to recognize domestic violence and sexual assault as federal crimes – whether the acts were committed by strangers, parents or spouses.
The latest version of VAWA is a far-reaching bipartisan measure that upholds established enforcement provisions, such as the strengthened sentencing of federal sex offenders, and guarantees protections for all victims, regardless of gender.
Defenders say some victims are reluctant to seek help for reasons such as language barriers or concerns about law enforcement involvement. The VAWA Reauthorization Act includes proposed funding for culturally specific services.
Because advocacy groups such as Safe Housing Partnerships have found that domestic violence is one of the main drivers of homelessness for women, the VAWA reauthorization would allow victims in federally assisted housing to ” obtain relocation vouchers, keep their accommodation after the departure of an abuser or terminate a lease prematurely.
Every time VAWA requests a new clearance, “We ask ourselves: what do we know now that is different?” Which survivors do not have access to safety and justice? Said Monica McLaughlin, director of public policy for the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
McLaughlin said shelter protection for victims was included in VAWA in 2005. “Now, in 2021, we are working to ensure that survivors who live in public or assisted housing have options,” a- she declared.
The latest version of the law also aims to improve accountability. Noting that the Justice Department has found that Indigenous women on some reserves are killed at more than 10 times the national average, the VAWA reauthorization reaffirms the power of tribal nations to prosecute non-Indigenous offenders who commit crimes on the tribal territory.
The act of reauthorization also seeks to fill the “boyfriend loophole”. Currently, federal law prohibits those convicted of domestic violence from owning or purchasing firearms. However, this only applies to people who have been married, lived with, or have a child with the victim. The 2021 version of the law extends the ban to current and former dating partners, as well as those convicted of criminal harassment.
Representative Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Who drafted the provision and lobbied for it to be included in the reauthorization law, says it’s an urgent matter of life and death.
She and other lawmakers who prefer to keep guns from violent dating partners cite the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which states that when an abusive partner has access to a gun, a victim of domestic violence is five times more likely to be killed.
They also point to a 2018 study published in Preventive Medicine, an international journal of public health policy, which found that more than 4 in 5 incidents of domestic violence reported to police involve partners dating, unmarried.
“I’m not trying to take guns away from most people,” said Dingell, whose late husband was a member of the National Rifle Association board. “But if someone has shown that they can mistreat someone, then we need to do something to prevent violence.”
The VAWA update also includes provisions for women in prison. When deciding whether to assign a transgender or intersex person to a male or female facility, the Prisons Office should consider whether a placement would ensure the health and safety of the inmate and take into account the inmate’s perspective.
To more effectively address sexual violence on college campuses, staff would receive training on how to conduct interviews without trying or blaming victims for alleged crimes. Where possible, they would also provide victims with a recording of the interview.
To prevent violence from happening in the first place, the new plan calls for increased investment in continuing preventive education, encompassing themes ranging from dating violence to reproductive coercion, primarily attempts by male partners to promote sexual intercourse. pregnancy.
– What’s supposed to happen next?
Both houses of Congress must agree on the same version of the measure before it goes to the president. The 50-member Democratic Senate caucus needs 10 Republican votes to meet the 60-vote threshold required to pass the reauthorization. If they fail to find a compromise, VAWA could be blocked.
If they come to an agreement, President Biden – who called VAWA “its proudest legislative achievement” and pledged to make its reauthorization one of its top 100 priority days during the election campaign – will probably be ready to sign it.
– Where can people find help?
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911.
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence at home or in a relationship, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline anytime at (800) 799-7233. If you prefer not to talk on the phone, you can also chat online at TheHotline.org. This hotline provides free and confidential assistance, including security plans, and provides access to health services in over 200 languages.
If you are someone looking to change your abusive behavior, you can call the same violence hotline. You can also click here for more information.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual violence in any setting, you can get immediate support by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673. This hotline provides a number of resources, including advice before seeking medical attention, assistance in navigating the criminal justice system, and support in accessing mental health services.
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