OMG, break out the champagne! Today the House passed a new Violence Against Women Act. This is the Senate's version of the bill, and its next stop is President Obama's desk. In a statement the President said the bill is "an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear." He says he will sign it the minute he gets it.
The first Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized since then. But when it came up for reauthorization last year, legislators failed to reach an agreement and more or less screwed women. ARGH! But this year it came back, and it's better than ever. Here's what the Violence Against Women Act means for you, your sisters, your mothers, and your friends.
The new VAWA includes special provisions for Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, and lesbian, transgender, and bisexual women. These were the provision that held up the bill's passage last year. But this year, they received bipartisan support in the Senate. (And juuuuust enough support from a few House Republicans.) They stay in the bill!
- Federal Rape Shield Law: If you've been sexually assaulted, your past can't be used against you in the prosecution of your attacker.
- You don't have to pay for your own post-rape exam or for your protection order.
- Organizations that serve domestic abuse victims get more support.
- Stiffer penalties for stalking under federal law.
- Training for police, judges, and prosecutors in handling domestic and sexual abuse cases.
- Continued funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE or TTY 1-800-787-3224), which receives about 22,000 calls a month.
- Undocumented immigrants who are battered are protected from having their immigration status revealed by their abusers.
- Tribal governments are given more support to help them protect Native American women. (According to the Indian Law Resource Center, one in three native women will be raped in their lifetime!)
Since the 1994 the Violence Against Women Act passed, the rate of violence by intimate partners is down by 64 percent. More of those victims are reporting incidents of violence, and those incidents are leading to more arrests. The VAWA has prompted states to reform their own laws protecting women from violence, so it's had a ripple effect. I was worried last year ... but I'm thrilled this bill was passed this year, and that it's protecting more of my sisters than ever before.
What do you think of the new expansion of the Violence Against Women Act?