Perpetrators don’t discriminate, so why does Congress?

By: Maggie Fridinger,  Program and Policy Intern

National Council of Women’s Organizations

Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States.  One in four women are subjected to violence during their lifetime.

Perpetrators do not discriminate in their acts of violence. Women are exposed to domestic violence regardless of race, sexual orientation, income level, and age. Abusers do not differentiate among women of legal residency status and undocumented immigrants. Violence touches all women.

I repeat: Perpetrators do not discriminate in their acts of violence against women.

So, why is the House of Representatives picking and choosing how women should be protected?

Initially signed into law in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) improves the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, as well as strengthens the resources and services provided to survivors. Congress reauthorized the bill during the Clinton Administration in 2000 and the Bush Administration in 2005 without any hang-ups.

This year VAWA is up for reauthorization, but has become a divisive and relentless partisan issue. Why? The Senate reworked aspects of the bill (S. 1925) to expressly include certain protections for LGBT identified persons, Native American women, and undocumented immigrants.

House Republican leaders removed these additions (H.R. 4970).

Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) is the lead sponsor of H.R. 4970. Politico reports Adams’ response to the questioning of her decision to omit the Senate provisions, “If you look at the bill and what’s in it, you will see that it is centered around our victims.” Which victims, I ask?  Definitely not all of them.  Maybe citizens who are white and straight.

On the whole, VAWA is a success story. Since 1994, domestic violence rates have dropped by 58%. The positive progress aside, domestic violence is still a widespread reality. Successful pieces of legislation (like VAWA) are often strengthened through subsequent revisions, amendments, and inclusions.

Evidence of such is apparent in the evolution of federal equal employment opportunity laws. Title VII of 1964 initially prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 prohibited discrimination on the basis of age. Similar protections were extended to “qualified individuals with disabilities” in both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the ADA in 1990. Currently, ENDA proposes protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (yet, we still need to alert Congress to pass it!).

So, what is the hold up? Does the House realize that inaction and H.R. 4970 indicate an implicit acceptance of violence against women? Despite VAWA’s accomplishments, more can be done to provide services and protection to specific identity groups.

If you believe that all women should be protected from violence, pick up the phone and start calling Congress today, (202) 224-3121 for the U.S. Capitol Switchboard. Urge your representatives to pass the inclusive version of VAWA (the Senate version, S. 1925) and mention that their help or hindrance will influence your vote in the fall.

Pass Senate VAWA, now!

This entry was posted in Gender-Based Violence, HERvotes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Perpetrators don’t discriminate, so why does Congress?

  1. Philip says:

    Minor edit: The 2000 re-auth was under the Clinton Administration and the 106th Congress (VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING AND VIOLENCE PROTECTION ACT OF 2000).

    Major edit: The House Resolution includes language to protect immigrant women and Native women. It’s in Titles 8 and 9. It might not be exactly the same as the Senate version but I bet it has essentially the same desired effect.

    • NCWO says:

      Hi Philip,

      Thanks for your input. The 106th Congress was definitely an oversight. The bill was reauthorized during the Clinton Administration in 2000. That has been edited in the blog post.

      In regard to immigrant and Native American women, HR 4970 does not have the same desired effect as the S. 1925 (even though it contains some language in Titles 8 and 9 making one believe so).

      Sec. 801 the “fraud protection” provision takes away the confidentiality for a victim of domestic violence, as it allows the alleged abuser (if he/she is a spouse and a US citizen or permanent resident) to know that a self-petition has been filed by the survivor. Read more at
      Sec. 802 makes it more difficult for the survivor to obtain a U-Visa, and severely restricts the conditions by which the law enforcement certificate can be issued.

      In regard to protecting Native American women, S. 1925 addresses what is known as a “jurisdictional gap,” acknowledging tribal court authority to hold perpetrators responsible for a limited set of crimes involving violence against women (i.e. DV, dating violence, and violations of protective orders). The House scrapped these additions. Instead, Sec. 1006 of the House resolution allows survivors to seek protective orders through the US court system. While this could be seen as desirable, if the protective order is violated it will fall upon the feds to protect the woman and do something about the violation. Needless to say, this is confusing and hard for the federal government to properly address in a timely manner (as DV needs to be addressed ASAP!).

      Check out some policy analysis articles to see why language matters. Just because something is “included” in a bill doesn’t mean it carries the best intentions OR protections.

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