On Thursday February 28, 2013 Congress passed the full Senate version of VAWA. There was concern that Congress would pass a modified version of VAWA which excluded rights for LGBTQ, native and undocumented victims of domestic violence. As millions of people called, emailed and tweeted their representatives, the full Senate version (including all victims of domestic violence) passed by a vote of 286 to 138. Yay!
So, what’s the big deal about VAWA anyway? The Violence Against Women Act was first written into law in 1994 by President Clinton. It ensured that $1.6 billion were dedicated to supporting victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking each year (male survivors can receive support too). It was the first time that legal and community efforts to combat violence were combined to support each other. These funds are used for violence prevention programs, advocacy programs, safe housing, legal aid, hotlines and crisis centers. Over 2 million victims have been helped by this bill.
In addition to this support, the passing of VAWA includes the important TVPRA for Human Trafficking survivors. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act authorizes critical funds for victims of Human Trafficking. It establishes grant programs for states to help child sex trafficking victims, it helps foreign governments investigate recruitment centers where trafficking victims could be recruited and strengthens prosecution of traffickers. It also encourages all federal and local agents to distribute the national Human Trafficking hotline so all levels of government are on the same page with treatment of victims. The law had expired in 2011, leaving critical human trafficking programs and services at risk. With an estimated 27 million trafficking victims worldwide, we need to do everything we can to make the United States an unattractive place for this global crime.