The House of Representatives reauthorized the Violence Against Women’s Act on March 17 — and this time it includes a grant program to help LGBTQ people affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
The VAWA had been in limbo during the Trump era under a Republican-controlled Senate that allowed it to lapse. Since 1994, the landmark law has provided programs and support for survivors of domestic violence, and lawmakers are now working to make it more inclusive with LGBTQ-specific grants targeting the needs of queer and transgender survivors of domestic violence who face unique barriers in finding help.
The legislation could still face hurdles in a divided Senate, but lawmakers in the lower house are urging their colleagues in the upper chamber to take action. The new grant funding would provide domestic violence organizations with LGBTQ-specific training, outreach, and prevention education.
“The Violence Against Women Act is about saving lives and ensuring justice for survivors who have suffered in silence for too long,” Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, who pushed for the LGBTQ-specific provisions alongside Congresswoman Marie Newman of Illinois, said in a written statement. “But until now, Congress’s efforts have overlooked the hurt and harm felt by LGBTQ+ survivors, especially trans women of color. I’m proud that this year’s Violence Against Women Act included my provision to create grants and services dedicated to serving members of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The VAWA has included LGBTQ survivors of domestic violence since 2013, but this amendment builds on that by including the grant provision. The House passage of this bill comes as transgender and non-binary people continue to be subjected to violent killings in the US — and Newman, whose daughter is transgender, is acknowledging the ongoing attacks against trans women as a “national epidemic.” The bill also comes during an uptick in violent attacks against Asian Americans. On March 16, six Asian women who worked at massage parlors were among eight killed in a shooting in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Furthermore, [the] devastating attack in Georgia that robbed us of the lives of eight people — including seven women, six of whom were Asian women targeted because of their race — reminded us that the crisis of gender-based violence is an intersectional one, and this legislation is needed now more than ever,” Pressley added.
While representatives underscored the barriers LGBTQ women face in seeking access to services for domestic violence, it is unclear whether the scope of this initiative would extend to other marginalized genders, including transgender men and non-binary folks, who are also affected by gender-based violence. Pressley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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