UPDATE: The House has just passed the Senate version of VAWA. The bill will now be sent to President Obama for signature.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) today, the final day of Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month. The previous Congress had allowed VAWA to expire for the first time since it passed in 1994.
Widely discussed points of contention include a Republican-led effort to drop protections for immigrant women, LGBT people and Native American. Less covered have been battles over inclusion of programs serving young people. So what’s at stake for youth?
First, it’s critical to note that many youth are also immigrants, LGBT and/or Native American – so in any case, the no-one-under-the-bus Senate version of the bill is urged by advocates.
The Senate version of VAWA (S. 47) also includes more robust protections for young people, including initiatives to address sex trafficking of girls and the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, which provides for programming, education and disclosure requirements targeting sexual violence, dating violence and stalking on college campuses. These elements are missing from the House bill, and are seen as especially critical within the broader violence prevention community because the highest rates of intimate partner violence are known to occur in young people ages 16 through 24.
Both House and Senate versions of VAWA include a consolidated prevention and early intervention program to address teen dating violence. According to advocacy group Futures Without Violence, one of three teen women is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse.
Kiersten Stewart, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for Futures Without Violence, urged members of the House of Representatives to pass the Senate’s version of the Violence Against Women Act in a bipartisan briefing on Capitol Hill as a clock ticked above her head this morning. “When we pass good laws we do indeed get good programs,” she said.