House VAWA Bill is Racist, Elitist, Homophobic, and Anti-Victim

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.

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  • oak-cliff-townie

    The Authoritarian Bullys know the best way to remove the rights from everyone is to start by removing them from THAT someone standing over there .

    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.

    I see a day when the protections are withdrawn from who ever isn’t one of them .

  • elka

    According to a federal study, 835,000 men are physically attacked by their significant other every year (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).  This is almost 40% of all victims of domestic violence.  Furthermore, of the 2,000 domestic violence shelters in the United States, very few of them offer comparable services to battered men, which they gladly provide to battered women.  There is only one in the nation, which I know of, that will take them into their shelter when their lives are in imminent danger.  For those of you who are incensed that this bill wasn’t passed, you should be thinking about the men in your lives about whom you care.  Chances are that they’d be up a creek in such a situation.  Maybe the comic actor, Phil Hartman, would be alive, if V.A.W.A. cared about battered men, too.  Unfortunately, organizations aren’t mandated to provide equal services.  Sometimes, we have to direct victims to the only shelter which we are positive will accept our callers.  These people pay the same taxes as everyone else.  Why are they being denied comparable services? 

        I’ve volunteered on a national helpline, which focuses on under-served victims of domestic abuse, although it specializes in battered MEN, for eight years.  The fact is that many victims go without help, and no one cares.  Many organizations in the field of domestic violence would rather ‘pass the buck,’ and expect that someone else will tackle the problem.  Excuses, excuses.  This is a field that makes a lot of assumptions, and when I try to correct them, I am sometimes met with disbelief, even though I have a lot of experience with what I talk about. 


    Our helpline sometimes gets calls from as far away as Australia, because it seems that there isn’t another organization, which is dedicated to helping battered men, on the planet.  Our helpline has never received a dime from the government, namely V.A.W.A., in the twelve years of its existence.  We depend solely upon private donations of small amounts of money.  I learned that we have a few months until we must shut down.  Our tiny organization is entirely comprised of volunteers, and this includes the executive director.  We want to expand our services.  However, funding is holding us back.  Please call your senator to include battered men in this bill. 

    Tjaden, P. & Thoennes. N. (2000). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

  • crowepps

    Battered men are already included in the bill.

    Although VAWA stands for “Violence Against Women Act”, it applies to all spouses including abused men and children. A VAWA petition can be filed in situations where the spouse of the US citizen or Permanent Residence has abused the alien. Abuses do not always have to be physical. Abuse can be mental, psychological, physical, or a combination of all the above. In fact, many abuses are psychological and sometimes leave long lasting scars.”

    I agree domestic violence shelters might be necessary for unemployed men who are financially dependent on their women for support, and who cannot afford a hotel room or an apartment, but I would suggest that the men do what women did in the early days of establishing women’s shelters — organize themselves to raise the money by soliciting private donors.  Just as with women’s shelters, when the demand and effectiveness are established, taxpayer funding will follow.