On Wednesday, the day before VAWA passed in the Senate, the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Representative Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) introduced a version of VAWA that seems to exclude LGBT people and harm immigrant and Tribal victims. When asked about the specific provisions of the bill, Representative Adams was quoted as saying "We're not going to be looking at the controversial issues that will detract from what is actually VAWA." Well, the controversial issues can’t be a war on all women, since it’s the Violence Against Women Act, so what are they? They are certain women – or, more accurately, certain people.
So let’s call it what it is. This isn’t simply a “war on women.” It’s a war on LGBT people. On immigrants. On Native women. It’s a war on these people and all those – including women - who would dare to prioritize their inclusion in VAWA. And it’s a game that's being played on the backs of people who face the most violence and have the least support when their partners abuse them or they are raped. Some conservative legislators have called the inclusion of these groups a trap to further this “anti-women” political posturing. So let me repeat: the inclusion of LGBT, immigrant and Tribal victims represents two years of input from more than 2,000 advocates. Inclusion of LGBT people in VAWA has been a priority of my organization since 1994. The “anti-women” maelstrom got traction about six months ago. So perhaps this is not so much a trap but rather a representation of the real needs of victims of violence.
The Violence Against Women Act is our country’s response to relationship violence, to sexual violence. The House of Representatives has an opportunity to rise above the “war on women” rhetoric by protecting everyone in this country who faces this violence by passing a bill that includes LGBT, immigrant and Tribal victims. And until it does we have to name those people excluded from these protections. Because they still exist and they are still in danger.
Stapel is executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.