The National Organization for Women condemns the vote today in the House Judiciary Committee. In a 17-15 vote, the Republican-controlled committee passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that completely undermines the spirit of the landmark bill passed 18 years ago. Judge Ted Poe from Texas was the one Republican hero who voted against the bad bill in the end; though he has been a longtime champion of VAWA, it took courage for Poe to buck his party.
The bill imposes cruel new reporting restrictions on immigrant survivors of violence — eliminating confidentiality, putting victims in grave danger and empowering abusers. These provisions would be thrown out if the cases involved legal residents or citizens. Frankly, this second class treatment of women of color smacks of willful ignorance of the problem and hostility toward the victims.
The committee refused to even allow consideration of a substitute bill offered by ranking minority member John Conyers (D-Mich.), which mirrors the “real” VAWA passed by the U.S. Senate on April 26 by a bipartisan vote of 68-31. Fifteen Republicans supported the Senate bill, while zero Republicans supported its House counterpart. This appears to be yet another ploy in the War on Women playbook, and Native American women, communities of color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of violence are the targets this time.
Instead of replicating or enhancing the Senate bill, House leaders not only added cruel immigration provisions but also stripped it of important improvements in programs, services and access to justice for un-served and underserved vulnerable communities. The House leadership just doesn’t have the will or inclination to help Native victims in Indian Country, immigrant victims desperate for safe harbors, the LGBT survivors of violence who seek services and support, or students on our country’s college campuses. NOW is stunned that Republicans voiced concern for “true victims” (their phrase) of sexual assault and domestic and dating violence at the same time they promoted and passed a bill that is heart-wrenchingly exclusionary and ignores the biases and disrespect that certain victims face when seeking help from the criminal justice system and access to life-saving services.
We urge the full House to look carefully at the House Judiciary Committee’s cruel and inadequate VAWA and compare it with the Senate-passed VAWA. Representatives must persuade the committee to reconsider its recommendations and report out a true VAWA that protects all victims. A vote for the harmful bill that shuts out victims who don’t meet the GOP’s idea of a “true victim” will follow House members all the way to the ballot box this November.