Violence Against Women Act At Risk

By: Ricci J Levy

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization in 2018, and the current administration has already indicated that it may not be reauthorized. We can’t let that happen – and we can’t let the protections established in prior years be eliminated.

The Department of Justice is responsible for carrying out the Violence Against Women Act, and the head of that department, Jeff Sessions, opposed the Act as a Senator in 2013. He had voted twice before (2000 and 2005) to reauthorize VAWA, so what had changed in 2012? There was in increase in the number of visas available to battered immigrant women, new nondiscrimination protections for LGBT survivors of violence and new authority for tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans who abused Native women on tribal land.

Sessions has made no secret of his conservative views on immigration, women’s rights, LGBT equality and civil rights issues. He is no friend to any marginalized groups.

Eliminating VAWA or shifting enforcement of the Act would leave victims of domestic violence and sexual assault vulnerable.

Image from RAINN. Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. National Sexual Assault Hotline 800-656-HOPE


““When you think about what a [Department of Justice] should be, the role that a DOJ can play, and juxtapose that with the record that Sen. Sessions has had historically with regards to civil rights, with regards to women’s rights, it is clear to us that he should not [have been] confirmed to a position that is as crucial as this position is,” says Fatima Goss Graves, a senior vice president at the National Women’s Law Center, which examines how policies affect women.”

“The Violence Against Women Act is currently the only law that includes explicit protections around sexual orientation and gender identity,” says Emily Waters, senior manager of national research and policy for the New York Anti-Violence Project, which provides services for LGBT victims of violence. “Without an attorney general who is willing to put resources behind that, a lot of the nondiscrimination protections lose a lot of their impact.” (Excerpts from MotherJones)

We have every reason to believe that undocumented victims might be less protected under a Sessions Justice Department. “What we know from experience is that when an immigrant community knows that local law enforcement is regularly collaborating with ICE, victims are not going to come forward,” says Grace Huang, policy director of the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence and a member of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. “They are going to stay in the shadows. And that harms all of us.”

She adds, “We’re probably going to have to change our advice to survivors on how to stay safe.” (Excerpt from MotherJones)

Sessions has, predictably, been silent on his plans for VAWA but, according to various news sources, a blueprint from the Heritage Foundation—a powerful conservative group with close ties to the Trump team—calls for eliminating all Violence Against Women grants.

That can NOT be allowed to happen.