This week, NCTE celebrated the hard-fought bi-partisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which, for the first time, contains explicit protections for LGBT people. This morning, NCTE’s Executive Director, Mara Keisling, addressed LGBT involvement in the reauthorization process on Democracy Now! More than a year ago, VAWA’s authorization was shamefully allowed to expire. Throughout the past year, NCTE has supported the work of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, and many others in pressing for a comprehensive and LGBT-inclusive VAWA reauthorization.
An LGBT-inclusive VAWA is important because nearly one-fifth of transgender people have faced domestic violence from their families because they are transgender or gender non-conforming. Generally, transgender people are already at greater risk of experiencing acts of domestic and bias-based violence. Yet, despite this increased risk of violence and increased need for services, many trans people have experienced discrimination when trying to access these services. The reauthorization of VAWA with LGBT-inclusive protections not only provides the necessary funding to implement the law, but importantly provides trans people with access to services that protect them from abuse.
Here are some of the key improvements in VAWA that will benefit our communities:
- Explicitly banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in VAWA-funded programs.
- Strengthening outreach and services to underserved populations, and defining those populations to include LGBT people
- Providing a specific “purpose area” to fund LGBT anti-violence initiatives
- Mandating the adoption of national standards to prevent and response to sexual abuse in confinement facilities operated by the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services – building on the standards issued in 2012 by the Department of Justice, which include key protections for LGBT individuals and those with intersex conditions
- Giving Native American tribal jurisdictions the authority to prosecute sexual violence committed by non-Native persons
- Requiring strong campus policies on preventing and responding to sexual violence
- Expanding support for forensic responses to sexual assaults and for clearing rape kit backlogs
- Protecting access to public housing for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and ensuring no one is turned away because they’ve been victimized.
VAWA is now our nation’s second fully LGBT-inclusive federal law after the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. We at NCTE are proud to have supported the passage of these laws that protect all victims of hate and violence, and we were ecstatic to be in the room as President Obama signed the reauthorized VAWA bill into law. We and our allies at the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, the Human Rights Campaign, and other organizations will continue engaging with advocates to ensure that LGBT people have a role in the implementation of VAWA.
Keep checking our website and blog for more updates on VAWA’s implementation and for more on the progress of our other goals for 2013.