Approved: Violence Against Women Act To Include Immigrants, LGBTs & Native Americans
As we open Women’s History Month today, Congress has finally approved a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. Originally signed into a law in 1994 to help, and protect, women from rape and domestic violence, the bill expired in 2011. Senate members have been under attack for stalling its renewal. Republicans were deeply divided on the details of the bill, but yesterday, in a sweeping approval signed by every Democratic woman, members of the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Act—by 286-138 (87 Republicans joined 199 Democrats).
President Obama said that he would sign it into a law when it comes to his desk. “Over more than two decades, this law has saved countless lives and transformed the way we treat victims of abuse,” Obama said in a statement. “Renewing this bill is an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear, and I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk.”
So what exactly does that mean for Latinas? This new act expands federal programs that assist local communities with aiding victims of domestic and sexual abuse, as well as helping the police departments to investigate such cases. According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, 23.4% of Latinas have been victims of violence by their partners. And for non-documented Latinas, women who are violated don’t report it because they are in fear of deportation.
The other big news is that the bill goes further by offering protections for gay, bisexual or transgender victims of domestic abuse, as well as allowing American Indian women who are assaulted on reservations by non-Indians to take their case to tribal courts, which otherwise would not have jurisdiction over assailants who do not live on tribal land. While many don’t want to believe or act on the fact that women in lesbian relationship get abused–recent reports cite 45 percent of LGBT domestic violence victims were turned away when they sought help at a shelter, and more than half were denied protection orders–it’s far from the truth. Indeed, some 39.2 percent of women in same-sex relationships who live together report incidents of serious violence and stalking b.y their partners, according to the American Bar Association.
This makes it a landmark victory where all women, whether straight or gay, are protected. The Act, pushed through by House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-California), the told members of the press: “If we’re supplying the votes, we should be helping to write the bills.” We couldn’t agree more.