|President Obama signing the Act.|
The Violence Against Women Act, originally passed in 1994,
was enacted to protect the abuse victims (both men and women) of domestic
violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The original Act passed in 1994 created
a National Domestic Violence Hotline, funded shelters that helped abuse
victims, funded prosecution efforts, and increased the penalties for abusers.
Reauthorized in 2000 and again in 2005, the Act recently
lapsed in 2011. Reauthorization has been stalled in the Legislature due to
partisan politics and disagreement over language that would expand protections to
immigrants, Native Americans, and the LGBT community.
The House of Representatives finally passed the bill in
early 2013 and in March President Obama signed the Act into law, reauthorizing
the Violence Against Women Act which again provides protections for victims of
Here are some of the additions and expansions associated
with the new reauthorization:
- Native American tribes now have the power to
prosecute sexual abuse crimes against non-Native Americans. Previously,
non-Native Americans who committed acts of abuse against Native Americans were,
for all intents and purposes, immune from prosecution because tribal police
could not arrest non-Native Americans and neighboring police could not make arrests
on Tribal Reservations. Now Native
Americans who are assaulted on reservations can take their claims to the tribal
police for prosecution. This is especially important as statistics have shown
that Native American women are more than twice as likely to be sexually
assaulted than non-Native women.
- Federal funding may now be used for domestic
assault, sexual assault and stalking related services geared at protecting
gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender citizens. The new Act includes a
non-discrimination provision that prohibits the denial of services based upon
race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or disability. The services
and protections for domestic violence victims can now be extended to those
people in same-sex relationships.
- Undocumented immigrants can now seek temporary
visas for the purpose of prosecuting their abusers. In the past, there have been issues with
undocumented immigrants not reporting instances of abuse due to the fear of being
deported. This expansion of the Act now
provides a means for undocumented immigrants to pursue justice against their
abusers rather than simply taking the abuse.
- Additional updates to the Act include sections
which address our ever-advancing technology, including provisions to protect
against spyware and video surveillance.
The Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act reinstates much needed protections for the victims of abuse, both men and women. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, around 1.3 million women are assaulted by a partner every year. The law authorizes $659 million dollars over the next five years to fund the programs, shelters, and hotlines necessary in combatting domestic violence, sexual abuse, and stalking. If you are the victim of abuse, you can call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline 24 hours a day at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Labels: assault, civil rights, President Obama, Violence Against Women Act