Murray on House Republican Version of Violence Against Women Act

May 10 2012

House version of bill removes critical protections for Native, LGBT, and student victims of domestic violence

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) expressed her strong disapproval of the House Republicans’ version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday.  The House bill, which passed with only Republican support and with strong bipartisan opposition, not only stripped the Senate version of the bill’s provisions making needed progress for LGBT, immigrant, and tribal victims, but also included dangerous rollbacks of existing protections for immigrant victims.    

“The House Republican version of VAWA is a giant step backward for victims of domestic violence.  This is dangerous and irresponsible and leaves women across the country more vulnerable to domestic abuse,” Senator Murray said. “Not only do they remove important protections that would be created by the Senate version of this bill, they actually strip existing protections already provided by the law. 

“Where a person lives, who they love, or what their citizenship status may be should not determine whether or not their perpetrators are brought to justice. I’m glad that in the Senate we were able to come together around an inclusive, bipartisan bill, and I remain committed to fighting to make sure my colleagues in the House of Representatives will do the same.

“We’ve made a lot of progress since VAWA was first passed in 1994, and I hope that my Republican colleagues will not insist on putting partisan politics ahead of protecting victims of domestic violence.  I will continue to fight in support of the Senate’s bipartisan bill, and to make sure that Republicans do not turn back the clock on the important progress that has been made.”

Specifically, the House version of VAWA (H.R. 4970):

Removes critical protections for LGBT victims:

  • Provisions in the bipartisan Senate VAWA Reauthorization bill would help to ensure that all victims have access to life-saving services, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The House Republican version completely removes these protections, failing to include even a modest nondiscrimination provision that ensures victims cannot be turned away from services because of their sexual orientation.

Does little to address the epidemic of domestic and sexual violence in tribal communities.

  • Women in tribal communities experience domestic violence at rates far higher than the general population, often at the hands of non-Indian men, but currently, many of these domestic violence crimes go unprosecuted because tribal courts do not have jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian defendants. Additionally, Federal and State law enforcement and prosecutors have limited resources and may be located hours away. The Senate VAWA Reauthorization bill fills this jurisdictional gap by recognizing a tribe’s authority to prosecute Indian and non-Indian perpetrators of domestic violence, in limited circumstances and with significant protections for the rights of defendants. The House Republican bill specifically omits this provision and does little else to address the epidemic of domestic and sexual violence against Native American women.

Removes critical protections for students on college campuses. 

  • The House Judiciary Committee stripped out a bipartisan provision in the Senate VAWA Reauthorization which would help to better inform college and university students about school security policies, crime statistics, disciplinary proceedings when alleged offenses are reported, the policies and procedures in place to protect and maintain the confidentiality of the victim, and the resources available to victims of these offenses. Removing these disclosure obligations only serves to restrict vital information to victims, students, faculty, and university employees.

Rolls back protections for immigrant victims.

  • The Senate VAWA Reauthorization bill modestly expands protections for immigrant victims, responding to law enforcement calls to increase the number of visas available for victims who help law enforcement investigate and prosecute serious crimes. House Republicans not only removed these modest improvements, but their bill also alters existing provisions in order to dramatically roll back protections for immigrant victims.