See all our coverage of the 2012 VAWA Reauthorization here.
There’s a big secret about the bill to address the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, introduced by Representative Sandy Adams (R-FL), that’s no longer so secret: it’s racist, elitist, homophobic and anti-victim. The bill, which purports to support “true victims” of domestic and sexual violence while excluding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) survivors, forcing immigrants to tell their abusive partners where they are and gutting protections for Native women. So, using my secret decoder ring, I have to assume that “true victims” equals heterosexual, non-transgender, non-immigrant, non Tribal, non-people of color victims. Or, to remove the negatives, “true victims” equals straight, white women.
The Adams bill (H.R. 4970) is in sharp contrast to the recently passed Senate bill (S. 1925) which had 68 bipartisan votes last Thursday. Senate Bill 1925 covers all victims of violence, including LGBT survivors; maintains confidentiality protections for immigrants; and provides protection for Native women in Tribal courts. That bill, championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reached across the aisle and focused on what survivors of domestic and sexual violence need to stay safe instead of partisan politics. We are in an extraordinary political climate when fights over the passage of VAWA in Congress is news: prior to this year, VAWA had sailed through both the Senate and House with bipartisan support that addressed the real needs of victims of violence. That we can no longer assume that our legislators would support protections for victims of violence is shocking. That we have to decode their messaging to figure out which victims they will support is offensive.
In case it needs to be stated explicitly, all victims and survivors of violence need support. Those in the margins, such as LGBT, immigrant and Native survivors, need more support than most because of the specific obstacles they face in seeking safety. VAWA has fundamentally shifted the way this country responds to domestic and sexual violence. In its evolution, at each reauthorization, VAWA has been refined to protect those most vulnerable. Never has VAWA distinguished between “worthy” and “unworthy” victims for good reason: Choosing between victims is not only offensive, it’s lethal.
So here’s my question for every representative in the House: can you support a bill that would not just roll back protections for all survivors of violence in this country but that would specifically and explicitly say to some victims: we will not protect you. We do not care about you. You are not worth it.
Can you do it? If you can, then we know who you are and what you stand for. You can feel free to openly promote a racist, elitist, homophobic and anti-victim agenda. Because House members who support a bill like the Adams VAWA bill will no longer need to speak in code – we can hear you loud and clear.