Criminal Law

VAWA Now Covers LBGTs and Native Americans

Since passage of the original Violence Against Women Act in 1994, reported incidents of violence against women in the United States have decreased by an impressive two-thirds.

still, violence against women remains a serious problem. One of five women will be the victim of rape at some time in their lives. One of five adult women will be the victim of domestic violence. Each day, three women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends.

Violence Against Women Act

Reauthorization of VAWA was signed by President Obama in March 2013. The reauthorization includes important new protections for lesbians and gays as well as American Indian women.

The new law authorizes some $659 million a year over five years for programs that strengthen the criminal justice system’s response to crimes against women and some men. This includes transitional housing, legal assistance, law enforcement training and hotlines.

The renewal also focuses on ways to reduce sexual assault on college campuses. It reauthorizes the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, adds stalking to the list of crimes that make undocumented immigrants eligible for protection, and authorizes programs to reduce the backlog in rape investigations.

VAWA was originally passed in 1994 to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. It was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, but lapsed in 2011. In spite of the law’s name, VAWA covers men as well as women.

New Protections for LGBT Individuals

The reauthorized VAWA specifically allows federal funding to be directed to services intended to protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender Americans from domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. A non-discrimination provision prohibits the denial of services based on race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or disability.

New Protections for Native Americans

American Indian women are more than twice as likely to be raped as white women. The reauthorized VAWA allows women who are assaulted on reservations by non-Indians to take their case to tribal courts. Previously, non-Native partners were essentially immune from prosecution because tribal police would not arrest non-Native men and local police would not make arrests on Indian reservations.

Call a Family Lawyer

Any person who is the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking should seek immediate help. A good place to start is the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. The law surrounding these crimes is complex. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a lawyer.

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