Updated: Feb 23
The new version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is not one that should be ignored. The Act has officially been passed by the house as of March 17, 2021, but it is currently still with the Senate. However, on February 9, 2022, a statement from the White House brought to light Biden’s hopes for this legislation’s impact on women who have dealt with or could deal with domestic abuse. This reauthorization of VAWA is meant to protect women by expanding "prevention efforts and protections for survivors”, providing extra training and resources to law enforcement and the judicial system, providing prevention and education regarding rape, and helping rape crisis centers (para. 3). All of this seems too good to be true. More safety, prevention, resources, and education to help women in painful and unwanted situations sounds to be a dream come true, but there seems to be a catch.
Pandering to the LGBTQ+ Community
When it comes to the left, we know that there will be pandering. Within the Act, gender politics is highlighted. VAWA does not only focus on women but includes anyone who has had a violent crime committed against them. This may seem like a good piece to put into the Act, but it is taking away the protection of women. The Act also includes a whole section of gender identity and LGBTQ+ titled Section 208. Section 701 focused more on women then brought in line 4 how "Transgender and gender non-conforming people face extraordinary levels of physical and sexual violence.” As sad as that is, what does this have to do about violence against women? Someone who is transgender may identify as a woman but does not have the parts that make a woman, but a gender non-conforming person is not even identifying as a woman. Creating a separate Act for protection for the LGBTQ+ community could make more sense than filing this all under women. If this was an Act for protecting women, they would not include these two types of gender identities and especially would not include homosexual men, but being a biological woman seems to not really matter anymore to the this administration.
Since there is the inclusion of homosexual men, non-binary, and transgenders the shelters could separate based on how one identifies if there is any separation. This would mean biological women who are dealing with a deep trauma due to domestic abuse, rape, and/or sexual assault could be rooming with a man. How is this helping women who have been through a terrible trauma that was caused by a man? This Act seems to be pandering to gender identities rather than focusing on caring for biological women who now may never be able to escape or get the full help they need to deal with the abuse.
VAWA and the Unborn
Alongside not giving enough protection to biological women this Act does nothing for the unborn other than what is recorded in Section 502. B. 5 regarding assessing “risks for infant and maternal mortality or morbidity” among survivors, and in Section 502. B. 6 it says, “recommendations for legislative or policy changes to help reduce infant and maternal mortality rates”. Reduction of infant deaths is very important, but there is no clarity on how that will happen.
To continue in Section 1102, it discusses reducing infant mortality amongst incarcerated mothers and discussing the duties of the director such as forming a needs assessment. As important as a needs assessment what are the next steps to make sure those needs are met? Will there be any follow-up? There seem to be no next steps for the women to follow, especially for women who are not incarcerated. Section 502. B is very sparse. This legislation holds no clear plans to protect women and only lists observations and thoughts. Without a plan, there is no protection for the unborn or their mothers.
This Act seems to have lost its way from protecting women against their abusers to protecting anyone part of the LGBTQ+ community. Pandering to such a small community may lead to disaster as women may not feel safe to even go to shelters or reach out for help due to the lack of support in protecting them from harm. Those who are domestic violence survivors what are your thoughts on these updates to the Violence Against Women’s Act 2022? Do you think these updates truly benefit women? We would love to hear your thoughts below!