You are browsing the archive for VAWA.

Anti-Rape Bill Could Create Wedge Between Different Anti-Feminist Factions

8:35 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Former Republican Senate Candidate Todd Akin

As Todd Akin and the country at large learned during the 2012 elections, pregnancies resulting from rape are very real and sadly all too common. If there was one silver lining in the entire debacle and “debate” over Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment, it was that it helped expose a previously under-reported problem: 31 states allow rapists to sue for custody or visitation of children conceived by rape. It might initially seem like it wouldn’t be much of a problem—most of us probably ask ourselves why rapists would bother to want these children at all—but the fact of the matter is that rapists rape because they like to hurt and control women. How better to make your victim’s life a living hell than going after her through her children? Nothing says “I have power over you” like forcing yourself into someone’s life through their children. Now a bipartisan group of congressmen are trying to close up this loophole in custody laws, with the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act, which creates financial incentives for states that bar rapists from suing their victims for custody.

Shauna Prewitt, a woman who chose to give birth after her rape resulted in pregnancy, was with the congressmen when they announced the bill. Prewitt filed charges against her rapist after she gave birth, and he retaliated by suing her for custody. There aren’t any numbers out there to assess how common it is for rapists to abuse the family court system in this way, but there are thousands of women who choose to raise children conceived by rape every year, and we know that rapists are often dogged in their sadism, making suing their victims a tantalizing opportunity for many of them. Wife batterers are notorious in legal circles for their eagerness to abuse the family court system to continue the pattern of hurting and controlling their victim, so it makes sense that rapists—who have a lot in common with and are often batterers themselves—would be attracted to the same strategy. And if they get visitation rights or custody? Now they have tons of access to manipulate and hurt their victim for 18 more years.

Needless to say, it’s probably not the greatest idea to let these men, who think it’s okay to force sex on unwilling women, raise children, especially if there are alternatives—like the mother—available.

Read the rest of this entry →

U.S. Must Stand Strong on International Agreement to Address Gender Violence

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Chloë Cooney for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

West Hollywood One Billion Rising

Women and their allies everywhere have been speaking out against violence.

One in three women worldwide will be physically, sexually, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. In some countries the number is as high as 70 percent.

This week and last, representatives of nations around the world have gathered to address the global epidemic of gender-based violence at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), an annual meeting to assess progress on advancing women’s rights. Having passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in Congress, despite attempts to block it by extreme conservatives, the United States has demonstrated its commitment to ending gender-based violence at home and can now support the world’s efforts to do the same.

This year alone, headlines from cities all over the globe, from New Delhi to Steubenville, have served as a grim reminder that despite laws, violence against women stubbornly persists. However, in some cases these stories have started positive debates and helped lead to the passage of better laws.

During the 2012 elections in the United States, we listened in horror as conservative candidates made one atrocious statement after another, revealing a complete lack of awareness that U.S. women suffer nearly five million partner-related physical assaults or rapes each year. Some small satisfaction can be found in the fact that these statements cost those candidates their seats. But the harsh reality remains: Too many mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends remain at risk of physical threat.

That’s why the hard-won battle to pass VAWA here in the United States was such a big victory. Signed into law last week, this legislation authorizes programs and policies that protect key populations, including same-sex partners, immigrant women, and Native-American women (allowing them to seek justice when their abusers are not Native-American). To exclude these people would further stigmatize already vulnerable populations when they most need care. Instead, the law will ensure these individuals can get the counseling, shelter, and other services they need to escape violent and abusive situations.

VAWA was first passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized twice since, always with bipartisan support. This latest VAWA reauthorization should not have been controversial. The bill has expanded critical protections with each iteration, reflecting a growing national recognition of the particular needs of marginalized populations.

Now it’s time to leverage this victory and momentum for women’s rights and turn our attention to women and girls beyond our borders.

At this year’s CSW, United States Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said, “Violence against women weakens our communities, stunts our economies, and erodes our common values.”

Advocates for women’s rights must urge the global community to put forth an outcome document that expands protections against violence for women everywhere and protects their reproductive rights, without any caveats or conditions.

As health-care providers, Planned Parenthood health centers see firsthand the damage violence inflicts on women’s bodies and lives—and witness the pervasive fact that marginalized women remain at greatest risk of violence with the fewest resources to combat it.

We know that addressing and preventing violence against women requires working with women’s health providers. Studies have shown that women’s health providers are a critical intervention for women in abusive relationships. In fact, women in family planning centers who received both assessment and counseling on harm reduction strategies were 60 percent more likely to end a relationship because it felt unhealthy or unsafe.

This week, as negotiations come to a close, the U.S. delegation must continue to express strong support for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and urge other nations to do the same. Opponents of women’s health attend these meetings in full force to try to keep reproductive rights out of the discussion. But we can’t have a real conversation about ending sexual violence without making sure protections apply to all women and young people and talking about victims’ access to comprehensive health care

A strong resolution must include a commitment to expand access to sexual and reproductive health services, it must recognize rights, it must include marginalized women, and it must support future generations by pushing for comprehensive sex education that addresses harmful gender norms.

As President Obama said upon signing VAWA last week, “All women deserve the right to live free from fear.” This is true for all women, no matter who they are or where they live.

Photo by Rebecca Dru released under a Creative Commons license.

Rethinking Immigration: Moms Will Do Whatever it Takes to Protect Their Kids

1:24 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

immigration rally

Immigration Rally

Written by Trisha Teofilo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Cross-posted with permission from the National Immigrant Justice Center blog.

Congress needs to understand something important as it works to pass a new immigration law: Neither a border nor even the threat of detention can keep a determined parent from trying to reach a child who needs her care.

To ignore this fact, when we have the opportunity to create an immigration system that truly meets the needs of our families and communities, would not only be a lost opportunity for good public policymaking, but also would put countless lives at risk.

I have spent the majority of my career working with immigrant victims of domestic abuse. Although it can be challenging, it has proven to be extremely rewarding and fulfilling work. For more than a decade, I have had the privilege to work with men, women, and children who have taught me how to persevere.

Harsh Laws Undermine Critical Victim Protections

Fortunately, in most of the cases I see, something can be done. I often can assist my clients with filing self-petitions under the Violence Against Women Act based on domestic abuse, or applying for U Visas based on being crime victims, or at the very least can refer them to counseling services and assistance to obtain orders of protection. I have learned to appreciate the many small steps it takes a person to move from a life of abuse, victimization, and dependence to a life of freedom and security. It is not easy, and dealing with the complex bureaucratic immigration system is a burden that often takes a backseat to the more urgent issues of personal safety, survival, and escaping abuse.

Despite progress in our laws to protect victims of domestic violence, the U.S. government’s focus on harsh enforcement practices and rollback of basic due process protections — including the chance to see a judge before being deported — have led to victims being denied true security. Deportation can be life-threatening for people who are forced to return to countries where they will not be protected from domestic violence, or for the children they leave behind in precarious situations in the United States. Deportation can mean death.

When Carmela’s* case came to me, she had recently been released from immigration detention. As a child, she was abused by her parents and older siblings. The abusive home life led her to get married at a very young age, but her husband also became abusive. Carmela fled her husband’s abuse and came to the United States. She eventually married again in the United States, only to be victimized again.

In 1995, an immigration judge granted Carmela voluntary departure. She left the United States to comply with the judge’s order. Unfortunately, the attorney she had at the time did not submit the appropriate paperwork so that the U.S. government would know that she complied with the departure order. Thus, her voluntary departure, which would have allowed her potentially to return to the U.S. lawfully at any time, turned into a deportation order, which permanently barred her from lawfully returning to the United States.

Carmela’s Struggle to Be Near Her Children

Carmela’s abusive husband insisted that she return to the United States and arranged for her to return unlawfully. Carmela felt desperate, as if she had no other choice, because she needed to care for her children. She returned to the United States, only to again be caught by immigration officials, detained, and subject to reinstatement of her deportation order. Even after she was deported, the abusive cycle continued and Carmela’s husband once again arranged for her to return to the United States unlawfully.

Carmela eventually was able to leave her abusive relationship, but without legal immigration status, it has been difficult to provide financially for her family. Her 17-year-old daughter Magaly is an excellent student who has lived in the United States since she was one. Magaly is applying for temporary protection from deportation under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Carmela also has helped to raise an “adopted” U.S. citizen daughter. Another daughter, Ariana, has become a naturalized U.S. citizen and begun a family of her own.

After a car accident in 2012, a police officer arrested Carmela and transferred her to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. She was detained for three months, during which Magaly was left without her mother. Current immigration law denies Carmela a hearing in front of an immigration judge because of her prior deportation order. NIJC has helped Carmela file two applications for a stay of removal and a request for prosecutorial discretion, since she easily falls into what the Obama administration has designated as “low priority” for deportation.

However, with her prior removal order, Carmela does not qualify for any long-term immigration relief. If Carmela were able to qualify for permanent legal status, she would be able to solidify the roots she has established in her community, with her family. Carmela and Magaly would not be afraid that ICE could show up at their doorstep any day and take Carmela into custody again. Magaly would have the opportunity to become a permanent resident and be able to pursue dreams of a college education after she graduates from high school this year. Instead, the family lives in fear that Carmela can be deported any day.

Laws Should Protect, Not Punish, Families

Congress needs to rebuild our immigration system so that it includes people like Carmela and Magaly. Carmela should not be punished for returning to the United States to care for her children. She should be afforded a hearing in front of an immigration judge and an opportunity to share her story. She should not have to fear returning to immigration detention. She is not a criminal or a flight risk. Rather, she is a mother and a provider. She should be allowed to stay in the United States and obtain long-term immigration status to build a life with her family, free from abuse and fear.

And if my argument is not persuasive enough, read Magaly’s own words from her DACA work authorization application, where she tells the U.S. government why she wants a chance for her family to build a future in the United States:

 photo magaly_zps5180b5b3.jpg

*All names have been changed

Photo by Loretta Principe released under Creative Commons License

One in Three: Silenced Stories of Survivors of Sexual Assault and Women Who Have Abortions

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Lindsay Rosenthal for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Valentine’s Day is a day when we are supposed to remind those we care about that we love them. But it is also V-Day, a day where people around the world share stories of physical and sexual violence against women in order to remind the world that we care about women and will not tolerate rape, battery, and abuse. This year marks the 15th Anniversary of V-day and the 40th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade. So I thought it would be appropriate to draw a connection between the silenced stories of the 1 in 3 women worldwide who have experienced physical and sexual violence and the silenced stories of 1 in 3 women in the United States who will have an abortion in their lifetime.

As a survivor of rape and a woman who has exercised my right to choose abortion, 1 in 3 is much more than a statistic. In my view, the social stigmatization that blames women and tells women they should remain quiet and be ashamed of having been assaulted is rooted in the same view of women as second-class citizens that says abortion should remain unnamed and unspoken about in public. Gender-based violence takes many forms and our concept of gender-based violence should be broad enough to include the structural violence inherent in a society that seeks to control and regulate women’s bodies and denies them the ability to exercise their reproductive rights in the absence of stigma, shame, harassment, and a slew of unnecessary legal and financial barriers to reproductive health care.

Today, I offer my abortion story as a means of complicating the assumption that a legal abortion is necessarily a safe abortion in a social and political context that denies women’s reproductive autonomy and moral worth as citizens. I want to challenge society, policymakers in particular, to see that it’s not enough to keep abortion legal, as difficult as that fight has been. I want to offer my story to a collection of stories that make the case for positive and unrestricted abortion rights and hopefully challenge people outside the movement to view my choice in the context of my humanity.

I have dedicated both my personal life and my professional life to the advancement of women’s health and rights. Throughout college I defended women’s access to abortion and right to reproductive autonomy both through academic engagement and activism — I’ve done everything from screening on abortion hotlines for women in distress to serving as a clinic defender, protecting women from the harassment of protesters as they entered the clinic for abortion services. As a young professional, I advocate for women’s health and rights every day, nine to five and beyond.

My decision to pursue a career in the reproductive justice movement was based on my own experiences coming of age with a uterus, but it was also deeply influenced by experiences as an advocate in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, watching as pregnant young women were bounced around from foster home to incarceration without so much as a single conversation about the circumstances of their pregnancy or whether they wanted to be pregnant, and without receiving even an approximation of adequate representation in court as they endeavored to keep custody of their baby if they wanted to be a parent. I knew one young girl who desperately tried to self-induce an abortion from a prison bathroom and another young woman in the throws of despair as her new baby was removed from her custody without cause.

All of these formative experiences taught me how vital it is for women to be in control of their bodies. I had no idea that I would eventually need to exercise my own right to choose abortion. But I understood that it is fundamental to women’s freedom and liberty as human beings that we have the right to choose when, whether, and how to become parents and that we be fully empowered legally, politically, and socially to safely make our reproductive choices.

Women have countless reasons for choosing abortion. For some women, abortion is needed as a result of sexual violence. For some women, their abortion will be the means of escaping the violence of an abusive partner. For some women, having an abortion will be a means of keeping the children they already have in the context of a society that makes it difficult for poor families to provide for their children’s basic needs and that punishes poor parents by removing their children from their custody and placing them in foster care. And for some women, having an abortion will simply be about making the affirmative decision that they do not want to be a parent or have another child.

For me, pregnancy was like this: My body had been implanted with a foreign entity that made me violently ill from the time I got up in the morning until I got home from work at night. Worse, it was threatening to grow larger and larger until my whole life was subservient to its needs and desires, and others’ expectations of what I should be. I wanted and desperately needed one thing and one thing only: not to be pregnant. My choice to have an abortion was not one marked by moral ambiguity or internal conflict; not one rife with grief over the potential life that some would tell me I should feel an innate sense of duty to bring into existence. Not to be pregnant — it was a need that I can only describe as primal.

From the clichéd bathroom scene moment when I learned the result of the pregnancy test until after I had the procedure, I was overcome with a feeling of absolute desperation. The instant that second pink line appeared on the positive pregnancy test, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that had always been an abstract reassurance, suddenly became an offering of grace and a tangible pathway to safety and security and the freedom to determine my future in one of the most vulnerable moments of my life.

Read the rest of this entry →

Increasing Dollars for Domestic Violence: How Companies Can Do Right for Women and Girls

12:09 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Loribeth Weinstein for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

What if domestic violence awareness received the same attention as breast cancer awareness? (Photo: DixieBelleCupcakeCafe / Flickr)

As corporations expand their philanthropic giving, an epidemic that affects millions of American women is being pushed further out of sight. Domestic violence threatens the security of entire families and communities — and all too often costs women their safety and their lives. The economic toll exacted by domestic abuse on our social service systems, workplaces, and on law enforcement is in the billions. Yet less than one percent of company-sponsored foundations currently registered with the Foundation Center even list domestic violence as a field of interest.

This is shameful: Charitable and corporate foundations must acknowledge and act to confront domestic violence. With their economic clout, they are ideally positioned to fund life-saving domestic violence services, underwrite public awareness and prevention campaigns, and create in-house policies for their own employees who are experiencing abuse.

The numbers are staggering: One in four women in the U.S. experiences domestic violence in her lifetime; young women ages 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk. And nearly 75 percent of all Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim. Domestic violence advocates and lawmakers have partnered for decades to boost both education and federal funding to combat abuse — most notably through the Violence Against Women Act — but public resources alone are not enough. Company-sponsored foundations, with the capacity to give millions of dollars annually, are conspicuously absent.

Read the rest of this entry →

As VAWA Languishes in Congress, Domestic Violence Shelters in Texas Are Struggling to Meet Demand

2:01 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Paige Flink for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A mother nurses her infant

We must protect Texas women & children from abuse (Photo: See-Ming Lee / Flickr)

It has been a brutal summer for victims of family violence. For the first time in the 34-year history of The Family Place in Dallas, Texas, we will shelter 113 people, including 38 women, 73 children, and two men. A mom and her young child are being transported right this minute by the Dallas Police Department because of the dangerous violence in their home. 

We’ve had to place some families in hotels because it is more than we have bed capacity to handle, but their lethality risk was too great to turn them away. My colleagues at other emergency shelters in Texas are experiencing the same overwhelming demand. The shelter in Arlington is putting up cots in their gymnasium. We are setting records we wish we never had to reach. 

All this is happening at a time when some Texas politicians report that things are going great in the Lone Star State. The women who are struggling to keep their kids alive would not agree with that perspective. 

Yesterday I met Sarah. She had been living in a hotel with her two autistic sons because her abusive husband had lost his job and they’d been evicted from their apartment. She put up with the abuse for years so her kids would have stability and a roof over their heads, but the recent pain was too much for her to bear. We’ve got her in a safe place for now, but finding a job that pays enough to cover her specialized child care needs and living expenses is going to be very difficult. 

Last month I met Mary. She moved to Dallas in 2009 to escape a 15-year marriage to a minister who was well respected in the community. Her employer provided transportation to Dallas to escape her husband’s extreme physical and emotional abuse. Her plan was to live on unemployment until she found a new job. Unfortunately, she was denied unemployment because the state where she had previously lived does not recognize the fear associated with domestic violence as a valid reason to leave employment. To make matters worse, Mary has high blood pressure. Her medical insurance from her employer was good for one month, but she can’t afford COBRA’s high monthly fee. Without insurance, she can’t afford the cost of a medication refill. I hope she’s healthy enough to find a job and keep it.   

And I can’t stop thinking about Gloria. During an abusive rampage, her husband shot and killed her brother who was trying to protect her. Her two little boys witnessed this horror, but managed to escape by jumping out of the bathroom window. Gloria’s husband kept her trapped in their marriage by not letting her become a legal resident. He didn’t want her to gain independence from him because he was afraid he would lose her. 

"Save America, Vote!" reads the sign in the yard of a politically-opinionated neighbor. What good will that do? If we send someone new to Washington DC, will they take action? Will a new Senator or House Representative reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)? Since 1994, this critical law has provided funding for shelters, saved thousands of lives, and helped reduce partner violence against women across our country. The number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34 percent for women and 57 percent for men; the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased 53 percent in the years since the law was enacted. Today, this effective law is a political football, languishing on the desks of Congressmen while agencies such as ours struggle to shelter every person who needs it.

Come on Congress: Where are your "family values?"  

In my 20 years of working to stop family violence in our community, I have seen thousands of courageous women and children escape to a better life. They couldn’t have done it without the financial support of caring individuals. Find a shelter in your town. Help feed and clothe these families. Provide enriching activities for the children. Bring your gently used baby stroller and car seat to help a new mom in the shelter transport her baby home. 

Call your representative, get mad, get active, and tell politicians to do their jobs and reauthorize the VAWA before the situation gets even worse. 

House VAWA Bill is Racist, Elitist, Homophobic, and Anti-Victim

11:01 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Sharon Stapel for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of the 2012 VAWA Reauthorization here.

There’s a big secret about the bill to address the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, introduced by Representative Sandy Adams (R-FL), that’s no longer so secret: it’s racist, elitist, homophobic and anti-victim. The bill, which purports to support “true victims” of domestic and sexual violence while excluding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) survivors, forcing immigrants to tell their abusive partners where they are and gutting protections for Native women. So, using my secret decoder ring, I have to assume that “true victims” equals heterosexual, non-transgender, non-immigrant, non Tribal, non-people of color victims. Or, to remove the negatives, “true victims” equals straight, white women. 

The Adams bill (H.R. 4970) is in sharp contrast to the recently passed Senate bill (S. 1925) which had 68 bipartisan votes last Thursday. Senate Bill 1925 covers all victims of violence, including LGBT survivors; maintains confidentiality protections for immigrants; and provides protection for Native women in Tribal courts. That bill, championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reached across the aisle and focused on what survivors of domestic and sexual violence need to stay safe instead of partisan politics. We are in an extraordinary political climate when fights over the passage of VAWA in Congress is news: prior to this year, VAWA had sailed through both the Senate and House with bipartisan support that addressed the real needs of victims of violence. That we can no longer assume that our legislators would support protections for victims of violence is shocking. That we have to decode their messaging to figure out which victims they will support is offensive.

In case it needs to be stated explicitly, all victims and survivors of violence need support.  Those in the margins, such as LGBT, immigrant and Native survivors, need more support than most because of the specific obstacles they face in seeking safety. VAWA has fundamentally shifted the way this country responds to domestic and sexual violence. In its evolution, at each reauthorization, VAWA has been refined to protect those most vulnerable. Never has VAWA distinguished between “worthy” and “unworthy” victims for good reason: Choosing between victims is not only offensive, it’s lethal. 

So here’s my question for every representative in the House: can you support a bill that would not just roll back protections for all survivors of violence in this country but that would specifically and explicitly say to some victims:  we will not protect you.  We do not care about you. You are not worth it.

Can you do it?  If you can, then we know who you are and what you stand for.  You can feel free to openly promote a racist, elitist, homophobic and anti-victim agenda. Because House members who support a bill like the Adams VAWA bill will no longer need to speak in code – we can hear you loud and clear.

House Bill on Violence Would Hand Power to Abusers of Immigrant Women and Allow Criminal Prosecution of Victims

11:38 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Mony Ruiz-Velasco for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center provides legal services under the Violence Against Women Act to hundreds of victims and their children each year. We are appalled at the immigration provisions that the judiciary committee in the House of Representatives passed in HR4970. This bill erodes protections available to immigrant victims.

Photo by epsos.de

Abusers frequently use immigration status as a weapon against their undocumented victims by threatening to have the victim deported or refusing to complete an application for status. A VAWA self-petition allows a victim of violence to apply for lawful status on her own behalf, without relying on her abusive spouse, if she can show that she has been a victim of violence at the hands of her husband who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. HR4970 eliminates important confidentiality protections that are critical to ensure the victims’ safety. Immigration officials would notify abusers that the victim is seeking protection from the abuse. This is particularly dangerous for victims who are still living with their abusers or have children, as many immigrant victims have very limited options to leave an abusive situation until they obtain legal status. To seek protection, the victim will also reveal her whereabouts even if she managed to escape.

In addition, HR4970 would make a major change to how these applications are processed. HR4970 decentralizes the processing of these applications and gives local immigration offices authority to adjudicate VAWA petitions. For many years now, VAWA adjudications are centralized in the Vermont Service Center. Staff in Vermont receive extensive and highly specialized training on domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking and are trained to adjudicate petitions filed by victims without re-traumatizing the victims.  Local district offices are ill equipped to handle these highly sensitive cases. Proposed changes in HR4970 are detrimental to immigrant victims.

Finally, HR4970 ignores the dearth of access to legal counsel and language barriers many immigrant victims of violence face and exacts severe punishment for anyone who makes a mistake in the process. HR4970 raises the standard of proof required to succeed in a VAWA application to a standard higher than has been set for asylum applicants. In addition, if the government finds “material misrepresentation” in an application, the victim and her derivatives, including young children, will be permanently barred from all immigration protections, she will also be referred to the FBI for criminal prosecution, and will be removed on an “expedited basis.” Let me repeat: this bill would criminally prosecute victims of violence who make a mistake on their application for protection. To provide further punishment, applicants’ children also would also be permanently barred from immigration benefits, including prosecutorial discretion and deferred action.

Under these circumstances, as an immigration attorney who has handled hundreds of these cases over more than 15 years, I cannot imagine a situation where I would advise a client to apply for protection under VAWA if HR 4970 becomes the law. The risk to their safety would be too great and they would not be able to achieve permanent protection from dangerous abusers, which will be extremely dangerous.

HR4970 is not VAWA – it is an attack on immigrants, women and in particular, women of color. By passing this bill, Congress is abandoning thousands of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking and leaving them vulnerable to further abuse and harm.

VAWA Saved My Life. Now House Republicans Are Pushing For Changes That Will Leave Others Like Me Vulnerable

6:16 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Erika Anonymous for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Photo by Tom Godber

My name is Erika.  I came to the United States with my parents when I was six years old and I have been here ever since.

I have lived in fear for most of my life because of my ex-husband. We met as high school freshmen in Chicago. Our relationship was rocky from the beginning and he became more controlling and possessive over the years. But when he joined the Marines after high school, things seemed to change for a while. He apologized for the way he acted and promised to treat me with respect.

After we got married, he became worse than ever. He came home drunk and assaulted me. He would lock me in the house all day when he was at work, even though I was caring for our infant son. When he would come home, he would bring many friends and drink all night. When I told him he needed to stop drinking or I would leave, he shoved me against a wall and swung to punch me. I ducked, so he hit wall instead. When he was deployed to Iraq, he was supposed to put money into a bank account for our family, but he put most of his money in a separate account and left me without access to it. Even though he was making money, because I was undocumented, I was unable to earn money to feed my children and I had to ask my parents to buy us food. After he returned from Iraq, he began having relationships with other women, sometimes in front of me.  Eventually, I reached out for help and I left.

I would have lived in fear my whole life without protection under the Violence Against Women Act. I now have lawful status and a job as an office manager. I can do anything now. I am not afraid that my ex-husband will take my children away from me or have me deported, as he threatened to do before. I have high hopes for the future. I want to go back to school to study culinary arts, and because of VAWA, I can reach for that goal.

But my ex-husband would have done anything in his power to prevent me from getting legal status. He would have lied and denied that he was abusing me. Even as I was going through the application process, he threatened to kill me. If he found out about my VAWA application, I truly believe that he would have acted on his threats. The proposed VAWA bill, which requires immigration officials to interview the abusers, is dangerous. The government cannot let abusers continue to have control. The government is supposed to protect victims. VAWA saved my life, and I hope it is left as it is now so it can continue to save other women in dangerous situations.

Republican Partisan Bill H.R. 4970 Will Make Life More Difficult for Domestic Abuse Victims

6:08 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Rep. Jan Schakowsky for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Congresswoman Schakowsky delivered these remarks on a call with reporters and others last week. Her comments are reprinted here with permission.

I want to thank the National Immigrant Justice Center and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence for organizing this very important call this morning.

Immigrant women at a protest. Photo by Elvert Barnes.

Immigrant women at a protest. Photo by Elvert Barnes.

I appreciate the particular focus on the VAWA provisions that protect battered immigrant women – one of the most vulnerable of the vulnerable populations in our country.

Ensuring that immigrant women are able to leave their abusers and aren’t forced to stay because of threats of deportation, or because they are afraid to come out of the shadows has been a long-time focus of mine.

During past VAWA reauthorizations, I have gotten provisions to stop the deportation of eligible immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking included, as well as a provision to allow battered immigrant self-petitioners to receive their lawful permanent residency status in the U.S. without having to travel abroad.

I have introduced – along with Representative Judy Chu – the Violence Against Immigrant Women Act (H.R. 5331).  Our bill would streamline the processing of VAWA cases and make adjustments to help victims escape from their abusers and overcome the effects of victimization.  Our bill would ensure greater numbers of immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault receive U visa protection, and it would allow victims of stalking, elder abuse, and child abuse to access these important protections.  It would also require DHS to issue employment authorization to victims in timely manner.  Because of delays, the majority of immigrant victims who have filed valid cases are forced to wait more than six months for work authorization, some can wait as long as a year.

Read the rest of this entry →