VAWA shows how hard party lines harm women


Congress is once again drawing a line in the sand and taking hard, party lines creating a situation that will harm many women in South Dakota.

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)is a perfect example of what is wrong with our Congress today.

Instead of looking for common ground that will protect all women of this country, the Congress has decided that only those their party chooses deserve protection.

This law allocates more than $600 million a year to help women who have been victimized and to go after their attackers. The Democratic version passed the Senate with some bipartisan support. The Republican version passed narrowly in the House. And now the bill is in jeopardy.

Part of the reason why the fight over the law has been so bitter is that both parties are trying to prove to women voters that they are on their side in an election year.

The Senate’s measure ensures that victims are not denied services because they are gay or transgender. It also strives to ensure that domestic violence crimes committed by non-native men in tribal communities are prosecuted. It also would expand the availability of special visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence. That move was supported by law enforcement to encourage victims to come forward and testify against their abusers.

The House passed their version of the VAWA but the bill does not include protections for lesbian, gay, transgender, Native American and undocumented immigrant women. It eliminates a confidentiality requirement in current law that protects the identity of immigrant women who file domestic violence complaints against a spouse who is a citizen or legal resident and allows the women to apply for legal status on their own.

The House bill passed 221-205 with the vote largely split along party lines. House Republicans said the Senate bill is an election year stunt, singling out groups for special treatment.

This is why the people of this country are angry with Congress and why the approval rating for their work is in the single digits.

Instead of finding common ground and giving protection to people who really need it, they choose to fight like children over who cheated in a game of kickball.

The reauthorization of the VAWA is vital, especially to Native women because they are among the most violated of all women.

Sometime in their lives 34 percent of Native women will be raped, 39 percent will be abused by their partners and on some reservations, Native women are murdered at more than 10 times the national rate.

But in their zeal to protect taxpayers from paying for equal rights for justice against abusers for immigrants and gays and others in alternative lifestyles, the House bill cuts funding for Native women.

The Senate version of VAWA addresses the failure of federal courts to prosecute abusers and gives more control to local tribal law enforcement. It provides a limited legal fix to address the widespread crime of violence against Native women by non-native partners. It does not, as has been said by some members of the House, expand the jurisdiction to other crimes or crimes committed outside of the borders of the reservation.

So why are these provisions of the law tossed aside with those that are abhorrent to the conservatives in Congress?
Because they can hide behind the fact that this is an election year and the Senate bill is a grandiose attempt to secure the alternate lifestyle vote for the president.

So it does not matter to some members of Congress that women, who suffer through abuse daily and who have little protection from the law will continue to suffer. As long as they can make members of the opposite party look bad, they care not for the consequences to women.

Members of Congress ignored the findings of a task force that focused on the creation of this bill. They ignored two years of research and surveys from across the country about the most pressing issues in violence against women.

Instead they chose party lines above the protection of women.

The bill should ensure that all victims of domestic violence have the protection of the law, not just those chosen by one political party or the other.
– Katie Zerr –

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