So, there have been a number of posts here on Prevention, Power & Peace about the importance of the Violence Against Women act and the shenanigans that have endangered it and hung it up in partisan politics for 500 days of bickering and stalling. I’m glad to report that this morning, it passed through the House and is finally reauthorized with a vote of 286 to 138. Even better, the alternate Republican version of the act, which struck out protections for LGBT, for immigrant women, and for Native American women, got consigned to the circular file of history.
Just for a bit of perspective, one reason that the Native American women portion is so important is this (taken from a Washington Post article):
Before the end of the last Congress, negotiations stalled over the Native American provision. That is, giving tribal courts limited authority to prosecute non-Native Americans accused of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes against Native American women on Indian reservations. As I wrote last December, under the old VAWA, a non-Native American man who beats up, sexually assaults or even kills a Native American woman on tribal land would basically get away with it because tribal courts do not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian defendants. In addition, federal and state law enforcement have limited resources to pursue cases and might be hours away from a reservation.
The reauthorized and expanded VAWA also extends protections to other groups that are among the most vulnerable such as human trafficking victims. It will help reduce violence on college campuses, and help rape victims by making sure that their rape kits are processed–there is currently a tremendous backlog on processing, leaving many victims of sexual assault in a limbo where evidence that could be used to bring their attacker to justice languishes without being analyzed. Every year since VAWA began in 1994, it has passed without fuss and with expanded protections… until this latest time.
In America, we have long stood by the principle that the protections of the law are not meant just for some. The law should be there to keep all people safe. That is why VAWA’s expansions to protect vulnerable populations such as Native American victims, LGBT victims, and immigrant victims are so terribly, integrally important.
Today is a good day–a day of hope for those victimized by sexual assault and domestic violence. Today is a day that America finally FINALLY said, “We support you. We hear you. We believe you. You have worth in our eyes. Your pain is real. You deserve justice.”