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By Abigail Brooks

Staff Reporter

The House of Representatives rejected the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in April 2012 for the first time since its enactment in 1994. The act funds, creates and supports programs that are crucial to improving the response to domestic violence.

The 2012 version of the bill extended protections to same-sex couples, allowed for more protections for immigrants that are the victims of abuse and permitted Native American tribal courts to convict non-Native American persons who assault Native American intimate partners.

These three new provisions, which passed in the Senate, caused House conservatives to oppose the reauthorization of the bill.

The House version of the bill does not contain any of the provisions added to the Senate bill.

Leigh Goodmark, J.D., spoke to a crowd of students, professors and women’s rights activists in Driscoll Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 24, about the history and implications of the act in an event co-sponsored by the Villanova School of Law, political science and gender and women’s studies department.

Goodmark also discussed the current political climate for women in the United States, especially in light of the upcoming election.

Goodmark is an associate professor, director of clinical education and co-director of the Center of Applied Feminism at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

She is also president of the Women’s Law Center at Maryland, as well as the author of “A Troubled Marriage: Domestic Violence and the Legal System.”

Goodmark focused the beginning of her lecture on the election and how it can affect women, saying that this election has “problematic politics around women’s issues.”

“Justice Ginsburg will be retiring soon, so there is the question of who the next Supreme Court justice will be,” Goodmark said. “There is the opinion that any woman is a good woman in a position like this, and I think that’s just not so. This is important because federal judges hear challenges to laws that are essential to women.”

Goodmark listed the Affordable Care Act, the DREAM Act and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 as among the laws that most affect women.

According to Goodmark, the House has voted 33 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which cost the nation $50 million.

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act would affect low-income women who can’t afford contraception coverage,” Goodmark said.  “I just think it’s interesting that health insurance in the United States will cover Viagra, but not contraception.”

The Violence Against Women Act, otherwise known as VAWA, is another law that will be an important political issue in this election, especially for women, although men are also the victims of domestic violence.

VAWA has always had strong bipartisan support since its passing in 1994, and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. It remains unclear whether a final bill will reach the desk of the president before the end of this year.

“The 2012 reauthorization of VAWA includes a number of changes, but three provisions have been very controversial,” Goodmark said. “Language that extends anti-discrimination provisions specifically to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender victims of violence; expansion of the jurisdiction of tribal courts to investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence non-Indian persons who assault Indian intimate partners; and creates a path to citizenship for battered immigrant women and increases the number of U Visas from 10,000 to 15,000.”

The U Visa is a visa that gives temporary legal status and work eligibility to undocumented victims of particular kinds of crimes, including rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking.

In order to qualify for a U Visa, a victim must assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrator of the crime, and law enforcement must certify that you have provided such assistance.

“These three provisions have really become a line in the sand for reauthorization,” Goodmark said.

She also addressed concerns as to whether Senate Democrats purposely included controversial provisions in the 2012 reauthorization to make Republicans appear as if they do not support women’s rights.

“I don’t think Democrats added these provisions as a poison pill for Republicans, and I can’t really speculate as to why the Republicans do what they do,” Goodmark said.  “As with each VAWA reauthorization, coalitions of advocates for women subjected to abuse from across the country worked to address problems that they have seen with the operation of the bill.  With the U Visas, for example, all 10,000 of the currently authorized visas have been used for the last several years; expanding the program would address that problem.”

Goodmark is unsure of what the implications of not reauthorizing VAWA will be if the bill does not pass in the House, stating her position on the bill as “ambivalent.”

“It’s not entirely clear to me what the impact of failing to reauthorize VAWA would be,” Goodmark said.  “The police, prosecutors and courts who rely on that funding would continue to exist, although their funding would be compromised.”

Despite this view, Goodmark is confident that some form of VAWA will remain, regardless of who wins the election.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More harmed would be the civil legal service provider that would not exist but for the Legal Assistance for Victims grant, and the supervised visitation center that relies on VAWA funds.”

Despite this view, Goodmark is confident that some form of VAWA will remain, regardless of who wins the election.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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