Nearly two decades ago this country saw a major shift in the protection of women’s rights when the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed under President Clinton in 1994. The bill was drafted by the office of then Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) — now our current Vice President (for those who haven’t turned on the TV since 2008). VAWA was re-authorized in 2000 and again in 2005. Women are more protected and more safe due to the provisions in the VAWA.
It is up for re-authorization again and unfortunately it is not surprising that the Republican party is trying to destroy women’s rights rather than promote them. The bill should be addressing the high rates of domestic violence being committed against Native American women, ensuring that LGBTQ victims have equal access to services, and make college campuses safer than ever. Well, that’s what the Senate decided on anyway in April. But yesterday, the House of Representatives had different plans. They stripped away the protections for Native American women. Also, an abusive partner can now use his partner’s (victim) immigration status as a tool to manipulate and control the victim. This leaves women more at risk. It would also negate confidentially that helps many women leave their abusive partner. Why have Republicans controlled the House to make these changes? They claim the current VAWA facilitates “immigration fraud.” I’m sorry, how is protecting a woman from violence and potential death considered fraud? Oh that’s right, because Republicans just want to deport people and could care less about their rights.
As of now, immigrant victims can apply for U Visas if they are cooperating with law enforcement. However, the bill coming out of the House yesterday would limit these visas to only those women whose cases are actively under investigation or currently being prosecuted. This shouldn’t be a newsflash, but the U.S. criminal justice is pretty damn slow — especially when the victim is a foreign-born woman who clearly and sadly is not valued or respected in our country. So this leaves an immigrant victim of DV waiting for her case to be active and therefore exposing herself to potentially more harm at the hand of her abusive partner who is now pissed that she has come forward. Furthermore, because this new bill would no longer streamline her case to specially trained individuals in DV, instead, she would be forced to go to the local immigration office to report her abuse. Now she is more at risk of deportation and not protection.
Two organizations that are strongly lobbying for reforming the VAWA are Voices of American Immigration Fraud Victims and Stop Abusive and Violent Environments — organizations that are directly connected to the ‘mail-order’ bride industry. Over 320 advocacy groups opposed this bill yet it still passed. That is a very scary demonstration of power right there. It terrifies me that groups like this have enough pull and money in representatives pockets to gut the VAWA. Canada, you may have a new resident or two pretty damn soon.
I am graduating with my master’s in social work in three weeks with plans to pursue a career in the violence against women movement. Generally speaking, workers in the VAW movement make less than other social work professionals. Why? Because VAW services are at the top of the list of being cut when state and federal budgets are re-evaluated. For example, the city of Chicago currently budgets $0 to rape crisis centers. What does this tell me? It tells me that decision makers still do not value women. The fact that the House has vomited this horrific excuse for a re-authorization of the VAWA tells me that women do not matter. Of course this Bill is going to be vetoed by Obama — I mean, how can it NOT when his VP is Joe Biden. But the Republicans sitting in the House are absolutely going to influence changes to the VAWA of 2012 and I can promise you they won’t be good changes.
It baffles me. It really really does. To every Republican out there who has tried to get inside my vagina, uterus, and now is trying to destroy rights of marginalized populations such as immigrants and LGBT through the vehicle of the VAWA, I want you to look your daughter, wife, mother, sister, niece, aunt, and grandmother in the eye and tell her all the reasons why you think she should not be protected. Oh what’s that? The women in your life aren’t immigrants or part of the LGBTQ community? Well I’m sorry but the women in your life are no better than these women so get off your high horse and start implementing EQUALITY OF THE LAW.
If you are as disgusted by the VAWA that came out of the house yesterday, join the fight against it.