House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and several democratic representatives discussed the re-introduced Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Wednesday, which expired earlier this month due to bipartisan gridlock. The VAWA was enacted in 1994 to provide greater legal protections and other services to women who are survivors of domestic violence and their families. Since then, it has remained intact for nearly 20 years, until it failed to pass the House of Representatives under Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
In 2012, the US Senate introduced a modified version of VAWA, after taking advice from survivors of domestic violence, their advocates and law enforcement officials on how to improve it. New language gave express protections to Native American woman living on tribal reservations, undocumented immigrants, those living on university campuses and prohibited the exclusion of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. Cantor and House Republicans countered Democratic Representatives with a bill that not only removed the added protections for minority groups, but also stripped other protections which had been considered standard provisions of the bill. While at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, Nancy Pelosi offered these words discussing the re-introduction of the all-inclusive version of the bill by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Michael Crapo (R-ID):
Today House Democratic leaders are here to fulfill that promise to protect the lives and secure the liberty and happiness of America’s women and families by reauthorizing and strengthening the Violence Against Women Act... For nearly two decades, the Violence Against Women Act has helped ensure that no victim of domestic violence has to suffer in silence or in the shadows.
The inclusive version of VAWA is of particular concern for transgender and transsexual women, as they are just as likely to become victims of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their partners or spouses as cisgender women. According to the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, while domestic violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) relationships is seldom observed in studies, data on abuse where one or both partners are trans is even less prevalent. Societal transphobia can leave trans women feeling isolated and unable to seek help if their partners turn abusive. An inability to gain legal recognition of their gender identity on identification cards, driver's licenses and other documents routinely contributes to trans women feeling as though they cannot seek the aid of law enforcement. Furthermore, a petrifying fear of reprimand from their abusers if they decide to come forward can also compel trans women to suffer in silence. House Democrats are hopeful the VAWA will not experience the same bipartisan gridlock a second time. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) stated: "I can’t believe that there is any House member who’s going to get up and say there is somebody who lives in America who I do not believe ought to not be protected from domestic violence."