Each year, over one million women in the United States are raped. Not all of them are heterosexual.
Do lesbians deserve justice if they are raped or beaten?
And what about immigrant women?
How about Native American women?
And what about female college students?
What about minors used in the domestic sex trade?
These are just five of the big questions being batted around Capitol Hill these days, as the inexplicably contentious battle over the Violence Against Women Act wears on.
When TakePart last visited the subject, the Senate had just passed a bill, S.47, that reauthorized the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Though 22 male Republican senators voted against the reauthorization, the majority of the Senate—including every female senator—agreed that the 2013 version of the VAWA ought to contain specific protections for immigrant women, female college students, Native American women, minors involved in sex trafficking and LGBT individuals.
Last week, as predicted, the House Republicans introduced a version of the bill that eliminated the aforementioned specific protections. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the VAWA’s author, was quick to criticize the new version of the bill:
“The Republican House leadership has decided to replace the Senate-passed version with a substitute that will not provide critical protections for rape victims, domestic violence victims, human trafficking victims, students on campuses, or stalking victims. This is simply unacceptable and it further demonstrates that Republicans in the House have not heard the message sent by the American people.”
On Tuesday, February 26, Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI), John Conyers (D-MI), and Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) introduced the Senate version of the VAWA in the House as an amendment to the House bill that so angered Leahy.
Rep. Gwen Moore: “These games must end. I guess they thought no one would notice their bill fails to adequately protect LGBT, Native American, campus and sex trafficking victims and actually weakens current law.”
In a statement issued by all three congresspersons, Rep. Moore said, “These games must end. Republicans have introduced their version of VAWA, under the Senate bill number and the Senate title. I guess they thought no one would notice their bill fails to adequately protect LGBT, Native American, campus and sex trafficking victims and actually weakens current law.”
In May 2012, during arguments in favor of passing unrestricted reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Representative Moore revealed her own history of being sexually assaulted as a child and raped as a young woman. Despite Moore’s impassioned advocacy, that reauthorization did not occur.
What exactly has Moore so riled up in 2013?
Well, the House version of the bill omits any references to “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” These omissions may cause issues for lesbians and transgender women who seek justice after they are beaten by their intimate partners or raped.
In addition, the initially proposed House version of VAWA did not permit Native American tribal councils to fully prosecute non-Native Americans who rape or abuse Native American women on tribal lands. Instead, it merely allowed assaulted women to levy misdemeanor charges that carry up to one year in prison. This limit would have applied regardless of the level of severity of the victim’s injuries.
The group statement from the three representatives further notes that the House Republican version of S.47 also eliminates specific provisions to combat crime on college campuses. This section of the law, called the Campus SaVE Act, creates a new set of guidelines for helping students who are victims of sexual assault. It also provides money for training for campus officials and personnel involved in dealing with these crimes.
While the Senate version of the bill includes stalking among the factors that might enable an immigrant woman to obtain a U visa, the House Republican version did not. The U visa gives victims of certain crimes the right to temporarily live and work in the United States.
Finally, the House Republican version of S.47 failed to include amendments designed by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to “authorize a pilot program to create comprehensive residential care facilities throughout the country to provide safe havens for minors who are victims of domestic sex trafficking.” Wyden’s amendments also include advanced training for law-enforcement officials in dealing with pimps and traffickers.
As little as 24 hours ago, the neutered Republican version of VAWA looked like it would be put to the vote within a week; as of posting time, the inclusive Senate original is expected to be up for a straight yes or no vote within a matter of days.
As the country waits to see which (if any) version of S. 47 passes the House, it is perhaps instructive to consult a nonpartisan entity for statistics on violence against women. To that end, check out these stats from the Centers for Disease Control’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey:
- 1.3 million women were raped during the year preceding the survey.
- 1 in 6 women have been stalked during their lifetime.
- 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.
Why do you think some members of Congress object to protections for specific groups? Sound off in the COMMENTS.