Senate version of VAWA is inclusive - pass it

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.
 

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For nearly two decades our national response to domestic and sexual  violence has been evident in the protections of VAWA. Passed in 1994 to address the “private matter” of intimate partner and sexual violence, it has fundamentally shifted our collective understanding that violence in relationships is not “private,” it is unacceptable. Each time the Act was reauthorized, advocates from the field contributed their insight, gained through the now funded and public work to end this violence, to refine the focus on the act and include marginalized and underserved victims. In the time since its last reauthorization, in 2005, VAWA has continued to be refined by advocates who have recognized that LGBT, immigrant and Tribal victims were those most in need of attention in the next reauthorization. That’s not to say that there aren’t many other critical issues that need to be addressed by VAWA – there are. But these three have become the most “controversial.”
 
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.