The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is facing another struggle to stay intact, this time in the House of Representatives. The House GOP looks likely to rewrite the domestic violence prevention bill, whichpassed the Senate last week, with the aim of stripping provisions for Native Americans, undocumented people, and the LGBT community — the same provisions that Senate Republicans tried to remove from the bill.
But despite the Senate’s ultimate passage of the bill — which included the support of 14 Republican senators, including all of the female Republicans — the House is ready to fight these provisions again. Their version of VAWA also removes the protections for marginalized communities. According to Congressional Quarterly, a watered-down bill, of which Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) is the lead sponsor, is likely to pass in the House:
The House bill also would eliminate Senate language that supporters say would do more to help victims of domestic violence including gays and lesbians, immigrants and American Indians. Adams considers those provisions unnecessary, a spokeswoman said. “The grants are available to all victims, and there is no evidence to conclude that victims are being turned away,” said spokeswoman Lisa Boothe in an email.
The backing of Smith, of Texas, and California’s McCarthy signals the House measure is on a fast track to passage — and a showdown with the Senate.
While Adams may think the provisions are unnecessary, there is ample proof that she is mistaken. Cases of LGBT domestic violence increased 38 percent from last year. Seven people died from domestic abuse. And of those who sought it, 44 percent of LGBT victims were turned away from traditional shelters. As for Tribal victims, Native American women face the highest rate of domestic violence in the US — three and a half times higher than the national average — and can currently not seek any protection if the perpetrator is non-Tribal.
And undocumented victims? Maybe they aren’t “turned away” in Adams’s definition, but that’s because they fear that if they call the police, they will be deported.
Members of Congress have already seen heated debate around VAWA, with one member even recounting her own experience of being raped as a girl. With the attempt to strip out provisions for particularly vulnerable communities, the fight is likely to get even more difficult.