Today, Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA-23) slammed House leadership for unnecessarily making a partisan issue out of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The bill considered by the House today rolls back protections for survivors of relationship violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The legislation passed on a near party line vote, with 22 Republicans opposing the bill along with nearly all Democrats, marking the first time that VAWA, originally passed in 1994, has lacked strong bipartisan support. The Senate has already passed a bipartisan VAWA bill that received 68 votes -- including all Republican female Senators - but House leadership refused to allow a vote on the Senate measure.
"It's extremely disappointing that petty partisan politics have been injected into what has historically been a bipartisan consensus to protect women from domestic violence. Every woman living in America deserves to be protected from violence and until this year we have always been able to bridge our ideological differences and come together on this issue. This law was overwhelmingly passed with strong bipartisan majorities in 1994, 2000, and 2005, and there is just no reason to insert partisan politics into the issue of protecting women -- all women - from domestic violence," said Capps.
The House leadership's Violence Against Women Reauthorization bill is a step backwards for women's rights and over 300 advocacy organizations, including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the US Conference of Mayors, and the Human Rights Campaign, have expressed their opposition to the House bill. The Obama Administration has also issued a Statement of Administration Policy making clear that the President would veto this version of the legislation if it came to his desk.
Unlike the bipartisan Senate bill, the House bill would roll back current protections for abused immigrant women by making it more difficult for them to gain independent status if they have been victims of domestic violence. The bill also fundamentally diminishes the "U" visa program, which was created during the 2000 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to encourage immigrant victims of crime to report and help prosecute serious criminal activity, by now forcing them to risk deportation if they cooperate with law enforcement. The legislation would also ignore the needs of LGBT victims, weaken laws that help abuse survivors find safe housing, and leave gaps of protection on our college campuses.
"VAWA is allowing more survivors to report in a way that is affirming and empowering, which does increase the number of survivors who are willing to work with law enforcement. Rape is still the most underreported violent crime in the United States, and we need VAWA to be reauthorized in order to continue making it easier for vulnerable populations, such as undocumented folks and LGBTQ survivors, to come forward and report," said Jeannette Page, Crisis Services Director, Sexual Assault Recovery & Prevention Center of San Luis Obispo County."