June 28, 2:49 PM click here to comment > 4
Fighting for a Violence Against Women Act that protects the most vulnerable
Despite the good news from the Supreme Court today, the health and safety of many women in our community is still at risk because of partisan politics in Washington D.C. I’m referring to HR4970, the Violence Against Women Act.
The Violence Against Women Act was introduced in 1994 to address the epidemic of violence against women, particularly in immigrant communities, native communities, and communities of color. Somehow, in the past 18 years since the law’s original passage, protecting women from domestic violence has become a partisan issue. We must now defend the renewal of this bill, which includes important new protections for immigrants and refugees and native communities, from political forces on the right who simply do not have the interests of American women in mind.
Advocates gathered at City Hall yesterday to protest HR4970
We know that this law is especially important to vulnerable communities like women of color, immigrants and refugees, and native women. We know that 46% of Native American women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. We also know that 45% of lesbian, gay, and transgendered victims are reportedly turned away when they seek help from domestic violence shelters. These are life and death issues for many in Seattle, and we cannot sacrifice these badly needed protections for the most vulnerable women in our community.
We are most concerned about four key changes that would be harmful to survivors in Seattle and across the nation:
- U-Visas: U-Visas have been essential in improving community safety in jurisdictions across the country and are often the only way for immigrant crime victims to feel safe. The Senate bill allows for DHS to recapture the unused U-Visas and increase the numbers of U-Visas that are available to people who desperately need them. The House bill, on the other hand, dismantles the centralized VAWA unit and has these cases adjudicated by local DHS officers, many of whom do not have training to recognize patterns and identify credible determinations in violence against women cases.
- Informing Perpetrators: HR4970 will diminish the safety of the victim and in turn, more violent offenders will go free by allowing perpetrators to be informed about the victim’s case – contrary to standard domestic violence and sexual assault protocols for U.S. citizens. The proposed bill from the Senate, on the other hand, establishes a uniform nondiscrimination provision to ensure that everyone may access necessary services.
- Time limitations: HR4970 creates new rules around time limitations that could be detrimental to both the victim and the police. HR4970 only allows a domestic violence victim 60 days to report an offense. The number of cultural and language barriers, as well as the sheer trauma of possible deportation and abuse, are significant barriers to timely reporting. Furthermore, any information should be allowed to be reported as it is helpful for the police to investigate other cases.
- Legal status: HR4970 eliminates the possibility for legal permanent status if someone receives a U-Visa. That means that a crime victim has to weigh the factors between abuse and likely deportation.
We need domestic violence policies that include all members of our community, and ensure that all victims feel safe in reporting crimes. I hope you will join me in standing up for women’s safety by contacting your representative to let them know your stance on HR4970.
Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn