Advocacy Alert to protect VAWA

Really horrible legislation is threatening to pass the House that would really hurt the work of many JFON’s and their work with those who qualify for U visas, which deals often with victims of domestic violence. Attached is a letter we signed on to with other faith groups.

A YES VOTE ON H.R. 4970 IS A VOTE AGAINST VAWA AND AGAINST ALL VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE

It’s Time To Go In-District And Tell Your Representative: The Adams Bill (H.R. 4970) Is Dangerous For Victims Of Violence and Protects Abusers. It Is Not The Real VAWA!

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee marked up and passed the Adams (R-FL) version of VAWA, H.R. 4970.  This bill is DANGEROUS to victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The only way that we will be able to defeat it is if we make clear to every Representative in every district that they CANNOT support this bill.  We have to tell them:  you MUST stand up for EVERY victim of violence by OPPOSING H.R. 4970 – and if you don’t, we can’t stand up for you.

TAKE ACTION!!

The Adams bill is DANGEROUS for victims because:

  • Audit requirements are excessive, burdensome and costly AND DIVERT PRECIOUS GRANT DOLLARS FROM DIRECT SERVICES TO BUREAUCRACY.
  • Unacceptable “Gender-neutral” language ignores, rather than addresses, issues of LGBT victims.
  • Limits the U visa program, barring the use of unused visas, AND WILL PUNISH victims WHO WORK with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice.
  • Erodes important provisions for immigrant victims’ safety and GIVES ABUSERS ADDITIONAL TOOLS WITH WHICH TO HARM VICTIMS.
  • Fails to include key provisions needed to help reduce violence against young women.
  • Harsh mandatory minimum sentences on a number of crimes would have a chilling effect on victim reporting and would not help to hold perpetrators accountable.

ACTION 1:  PLEASE CONTACT – BY PHONE, EMAIL OR IN PERSON VISIT – THE DISTRICT OFFICE OF YOUR CONGRESS PERSON AND TELL THEM:

We strongly oppose the Adams bill. The House Judiciary Committee’s passage of H.R. 4970 on Tuesday is NOT a victory – it HARMS victims of violence.  We believe that a YES vote on H.R. 4970 is anti-victim and a NO vote on VAWA.  We oppose the Adams bill because it is NOT the REAL VAWA, it doesn’t include protections for all victims and it rolls back protections for victims of violence. It is DANGEROUS for survivors of violence.   We support a bill like the bi-partisan Senate bill that protects Native victims, immigrant victims, LGBT victims and other marginalized communities.  We do not think the House Judiciary Committee passed a REAL VAWA and we need the House leadership to support ALL victims. The House Judiciary Committee allowed no chance to discuss humane alternatives that treat victims with respect and decency. There is bipartisan support in the House for a reauthorization of VAWA that more closely resembles the Senate-passed bill (S. 1925) and Members should have a chance to weigh the merits of any and all alternatives to the Adams bill before they vote for final passage of VAWA.

Find your Representative here:  http://house.gov/ This conversation needs to happen in EVERY DISTRICT OFFICE. Use the National Task Force’s toolkit to help with your advocacy!  Use our talking points about H.R. 4970 and how it’s DANGEROUS for victims that are at the end of this e-blast.

EVERY Representative needs to hear from us, but here are the ones that need to hear from us FIRST!

Biggert, Judy (R-IL)                        (202) 225-3515

Hayworth, Nan (R-NY)                   (202) 225-5441

Herrera Beutler, Jaime (R-WA)   (202) 225-3536

Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana (R-FL)       (202) 225-3931

ACTION 2:  CALL HOUSE LEADERSHIP AND TELL THEM THAT YOU THINK H.R. 4970 HARMS VICTIMS AND IS NOT THE REAL VAWA:

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), (202) 225-0600 (Leadership Office), (202) 225-6205 (Personal Office), (513) 779-5400 (Westchester District Office), (937) 339-1524 (Troy District Office)

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), (202) 225-4000

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), (202) 225-2915

and say:

We strongly oppose the Adams bill. The House Judiciary Committee’s passage of H.R. 4970 on Tuesday is NOT a victory – it HARMS victims of violence.  We believe that a YES vote on H.R. 4970 is anti-victim and a NO vote on VAWA.  We oppose the Adams bill because it is NOT the REAL VAWA, it doesn’t include protections for all victims and it rolls back protections for victims of violence. It is DANGEROUS for survivors of violence.   We support a bill like the bi-partisan Senate bill that protects Native victims, immigrant victims, LGBT victims and other marginalized communities.  We do not think the House Judiciary Committee passed a REAL VAWA and we need the House leadership to support ALL victims. The House Judiciary Committee allowed no chance to discuss humane alternatives that treat victims with respect and decency. There is bipartisan support in the House for a reauthorization of VAWA that more closely resembles the Senate-passed bill (S. 1925) and Members should have a chance to weigh the merits of any and all alternatives to the Adams bill before they vote for final passage of VAWA.  National organizations that support victims and survivors of violence will support your NO vote on H.R. 4970.  Instead, please demand an open debate on the floor.

FACTS TO USE IN YOUR ADVOCACY:

The Adams bill is DANGEROUS for victims because:

Audit requirements are excessive, burdensome and costly AND DIVERT PRECIOUS GRANT DOLLARS FROM DIRECT SERVICES TO BUREAUCRACY.

·        Since its enactment, VAWA has included important reporting and oversight provisions both for grantees and for the Department of Justice (“DoJ”).

·        In separate letters addressed to Congressman Poe and Senator Leahy, DoJ has reported that “VAWA grants are being used effectively for their intended purpose,” that “grant management and grantee recordkeeping are generally sound,” and that when auditing problems arise, they are “not about waste, fraud or abuse, but rather about inadequate accounting and insufficient documentation” and are quickly resolved.

·        The resources required to implement this substantial new audit requirement would be better spent on technical assistance and financial training for the hundreds of small police departments, courts, and non-profits who are OVW grantees.

Unacceptable “Gender-neutral” language ignores, rather than addresses, issues of LGBT victims.

Gender-neutral language does not adequately address the need for services for LGBT survivors.

·      LGBTQ people face domestic violence at the same rates as other community:  25-33%.  Yet, a 2011 survey found that nearly 85% of service providers worked with LGBT clients who reported that they were turned away or denied services because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.  In a 2010 report, nearly half of LGBTQ survivors were turned away from domestic violence shelter and nearly a quarter are mis-arrested as the primary aggressor by local law enforcement.  More than 55% of LGBTQ survivors were denied orders of protection and only 7% of all victims reported violence to the police.

·      LGBTQ people are underserved because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, not just their gender, and should be included in this Act explicitly and not through a “gender neutral” approach that does not remove to the barriers created by homophobia

Lesbians are not turned away from shelter or services because they are women, but because they are lesbians. While there are already provisions in VAWA that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gay men continue to be denied services and to have their relationships minimized, being told that theirs is an issue of battery not domestic violence. Transgender people are not turned away because of their sex assigned at birth but because of their gender presentation and expression that service providers do not understand and therefore cannot address.  VAWA must protect all victims of violence.  LGBTQ victims of violence face barriers and stigma in seeking services when they are victimized by domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Simply making VAWA gender neutral in STOP provisions will not give the Office on Violence Against Women or State STOP Administrators enough specificity about Congress’s intent to protect LGBTQ victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.  Much of VAWA is already gender neutral but still many State STOP Administrators interpret VAWA to exclude LGBTQ programs.  This VAWA can give State STOP Administrators the direction they need to protect all victims.

In a recent poll, testing three LGBT provisions that were added to the Senate VAWA bill, sixty-two percent of respondents support “including gays and lesbians in the group that is protected under this law,” compared with only 30 percent who are opposed to that addition. Among women, 67 percent support expanding the law to cover gays and lesbians, as do 77 percent of respondents ages 18-29 and 69 percent of those 18-49.

Limits the U visa program, barring the use of unused visas, AND WILL PUNISH victims WHO WORK with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice.

·        Victims of crime should be able to work with law enforcement to bring perpetrators to justice. Limiting the U-visa certification process will discourage victims from coming forward and cooperating with law enforcement. Yet law enforcement tells us that failing to report crimes like these only exacerbates their negative impact on the community. Considering that many who commit U-visa crimes are serial perpetrators, law enforcement wants victims to come forward regardless of whether there is an active investigation or prosecution has begun .

·        Restrictive certification requirements discourage cooperation with law enforcement.  Victims who were hurt even long ago can provide useful information in holding serial perpetrators accountable.  This is true for citizen victims as well as immigrant victims. Research on reporting also shows that this would hurt sexual assault victims the most.

Erodes important provisions for immigrant victims’ safety and GIVES ABUSERS ADDITIONAL TOOLS WITH WHICH TO HARM VICTIMS.

·      Amendments allowing the alleged abuser access to the self-petition process creates a chilling effect on victims’ help-seeking.  Abusers who could have adjusted the status of their spouse and chose not to as a tool of abuse and fear will be in a position to block the victim’s access to this critical remedy for battered immigrants. Informing and allowing alleged abusers to provide input in these cases puts victims at risk of retaliation. Abusers frequently deny the abuse and falsely accuse victims of fraud or abuse. It increases motives for abusers to contact ICE to try to stop their spouse from getting legal status.

·        Shifting the self-petition process to local offices is duplicative, expensive, and does not address concerns about fraud. Adding an additional interview requirement is unnecessary, would be very costly and would require extensive training on domestic violence and sexual assault at USCIS offices across the country. Currently, the specialized USCIS center that adjudicates these applications is trained to weigh the evidence and ferret out fraud and can request additional evidence if necessary. Additionally, self-petition applicants have to attend an interview at their local offices to adjust their status to lawful permanent residence. The double interview requirement places an extra hurdle for victims of abuse not required for other applicants for status.

·      Adding an interview process to VAWA cancellation of removal hearings to local offices is duplicative and expensive. In VAWA cancellation of removal cases, the petitioner appears at hearings with an immigration judge, so a separate interview places an unnecessary burden. Adding an interview process to VAWA cancellation hearings will slow immigration court cases down immensely, bogging down the court calendar further.

Fails to address the crisis of violence against American Indian women by not recognizing tribal court authority to hold perpetrators accountable.

Indian women face rates of violent victimization more than double that of non-Indian women; the USDOJ estimate that 1 of 3 Indian women will be raped, and that 2 of 5 will be the victims of domestic violence.

The USDOJ also reports that 4 of 5 Indian victims of sexual assault described their assailant as white; 3 of 4 Indian victims of intimate violence describe the offender as a person of a different race.

These numbers evidence a jurisdictional gap allowing non-Indians to beat and rape Indian women on tribal lands knowing the tribal government has no legal authority to criminally prosecute non-Indians.  The Department of Justice has testified that this system of justice is insufficient to address the epidemic of violence against Native women.

Tribal courts must have the authority to hold non-Indians living on tribal lands or working for Indian tribes that commit domestic violence against an Indian women accountable to create safe communities.  Tribal Courts must also have the clear authority to prosecute non-Indian offenders that violate an order of protection.

State courts and state law enforcement have said very clearly that they cannot take on the responsibility of addressing this horrific level of victimization. The federal government also lacks the resources to address this problem alone, as evidenced by the incredibly low federal prosecution rates in Indian Country.

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Conference of Chief Justices have adopted policies recognizing the sovereign jurisdiction of tribal courts, and are committed to supporting tribal courts in their efforts to protect the women who are victimized on their lands holding offenders accountable.

Undermines the strength of the lifesaving housing protections in VAWA

Emergency transfers:

· One of the most pressing needs identified by victims and their advocates is the ability to relocate/transfer to a safe home to escape violence.

· The housing emergency relocation and transfer section in VAWA should (as it does in the Senate passed S.1925) require that owners, managers and public housing agencies (PHAs)  adopt the transfer plan developed by federal agencies.

· HR 4970 makes the adoption of such a plan voluntary by owners, managers and PHAs, essentially undermining the remaining components of this potentially lifesaving provision.

Notice of rights:

· The housing rights codified by VAWA protect victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking from eviction or denial of benefit based on their status as victims and/or the actions of their perpetrators.

· In order to enjoy these rights and avoid unlawful eviction, notice of VAWA rights should be distributed at key times, specifically at eviction.  Without adequate notice, victims will never know they have the right not to be evicted based on the actions of their perpetrators or as a result of violence/assault.

· By giving notice at eviction, owners, managers and PHAs can help victims come forward and avoid costly, contentious and unnecessary eviction proceedings.

· HR 4970 does not require notice at eviction, unlike the Senate passed S. 1925

Fails to include key provisions needed to help reduce violence against young women.

· Institutions would have to  include in their annual campus crime reports statistics on domestic violence, dating violence and stalking (sexual assault is already in the Clery Act) reported on campus and would have to provide clear statements regarding the procedures followed when a case of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking is reported.

· Victims would be required to receive a written an explanation of their rights any time they report being a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking, including:

o victim’s right to notify (or not notify) law enforcement if they choose to do so;

o obligation of institution to help the victim report the incident to law enforcement and seek a protective order from a local court;

o victim’s options regarding changing academic, living, transportation and working situations, if the victim so requests and such accommodations are reasonably available

· Institutions would have to establish clear, prompt and equitable procedures for on-campus disciplinary action in cases of alleged domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking

· Would provide both the victim and the accused with the right to have another person present at disciplinary proceedings

· Would provide prevention programs teaching all students, male and female, how to help prevent sexual violence and dating violence, including bystander education.

Harsh mandatory minimum sentences on a number of crimes would have a chilling effect on victim reporting and would not help to hold perpetrators accountable.

Long mandatory minimum sentences can keep victims who were assaulted by someone they know from reporting the crime.

Mandatory minimums for sex offenders are likely to result in pleas to non-sex offense crimes. The individuals will then not be identified as sex offenders for purposes of registration, treatment, etc.

The American Bar Association, the Judicial Conference of the United States and every major organization focusing on criminal justice opposes mandatory minimum sentences.

A 2008 poll found that fully 78 percent of Americans agree that courts, not Congress, should determine an individual’s sentence.

Expanded use of prison sentences for drug crimes and longer sentences required by mandatory minimums have caused a dramatic increase in state and federal corrections costs. State corrections spending jumped from $6 billion in 1982 to over $50 billion in 2008.

None of these proposals were vetted, much less approved by the field of advocates whose proposal forms the basis of S. 1925, the Leahy-Crapo VAWA reauthorization bill. These proposals are solutions in search of problems, and will only serve to exacerbate the already existing problem of prison overcrowding.

ACTION 2: CALL HOUSE LEADERSHIP, SPEAKER BOEHNER. AND TELL HIM THAT YOU THINK H.R. 4970 HARMS VICTIMS AND IS NOT THE REAL VAWA