(Editor’s Note: We are thrilled to have a great public policy student interning with us this semester. This is the first of her posts, but you’ll see more soon!)
Last Thursday, Congress voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in a bi-partisan vote of 286-138. YES! VAWA now provides protection for immigrant and Native American women, as well as the LGBT community. It will also increase funding for non-profits assisting survivors of sexual assault as well.
The prevention of domestic violence and assault against women has recently become a global movement with the One Billion Rising event that occurred on Valentine’s Day last month, all over the world. Although One Billion Rising only addressed violence against women, it was a powerful statement that the world is not willing to accept this violence any longer. (Watch all the videos at http://www.onebillionrising.org/livestream).
The national and international media coverage on sexual assault recently has developed the movement to protect women, whether in the streets of India, or on tribal lands in the U.S. As this movement grows, its power needs to be harnessed to protect all survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. The reauthorization of VAWA is a great victory, and has increased the possibilities of legal recourse and prevention of discrimination, but wait, what next?
VAWA’s exclusion of men and boys who suffer from domestic violence and sexual assault is troubling. Although the majority of domestic violence occurs against women, it is important to recognize that violence and sexual assault it not limited by sexual orientation or gender identity. It can literally happen to anyone. Another shortcoming of VAWA is that the term LGBT is used instead of LGBTQ, which will continue to exclude Americans who identify as queer.
Future legislation needs to include all survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. As Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, stated, “Let’s… ensure that no woman is ever forced to suffer in silence in the face of domestic violence and abuse.” We have an opportunity to ensure this internationally as well. As John Kerry, newly-appointed Secretary of State, comes into office, it is essential that he continues to integrate women’s health programs into U.S. foreign policy and we’ll be here to remind him of that, no matter what.