In the early 1990s, the severity of domestic and sexual violence began to draw greater and greater recognition as a serious problem of American society and of cultures all over the world. This resulted, in 1994, in the passage by U.S. Congress of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as part of the Violent Crime control and Law Enforcement Act .

According to The United Nations, violence against women is defined as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” Under VAWA, immigrants who are victims of domestic violence, child abuse, or elder abuse have the opportunity to “self-petition” to achieve lawful permanent resident status in the U.S. without the support or cooperation of the abusing spouse, parent, or adult child. As the Act, and later the law, have been implemented, men, as well as women have been included in the protections it offers.

Renewal of the VAWA

As the importance of VAWA in protecting individuals against domestic and sexual violence became more and more evident, a strong bipartisan bill to reauthorize it was passed in the 2013 by a wide margin both in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill was signed into law by President Obama on March 7, 2013.

What has the renewal of VAWA accomplished?

While the original VAWA addressed many of our national concerns regarding domestic and sexual violence, there were loopholes that the passage of the law helped to close. Positive changes were made to offer increased assistance to victims who had been ill-served by the earlier act.

It is widely accepted that the changes made to the VAWA in 2013 have made the law more effective and inclusive.

How Specific Issues Have Been Addressed by the 2013 VAWA Law

The 2013 law sought to right several particular injustices with specific language. One example is that Native American women were previously unable to seek justice because their courts were not allowed to prosecute non-Native offenders, even those who committed crimes on Tribal land.The 2013 VAWA gave Tribal Courts the necessary authority to hold any and all offenders accountable for their crimes.

Another area that was inadequately addressed in the earlier version of VAWA was the victimization of the LGBT population. Although members of the LGBT community experience violence at least as frequently,and often more frequently, than the rest of the population, LGBT victims have often faced discrimination when they seek to report offenses against them. The VAWA of 2013 prohibits such discrimination and offers LGBT victims the same havens for safety as all other individuals.

In addition, VAWA 2013 established important protections for immigrant survivors of abuse, by improving existing provisions. Specifically, the law strengthens the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, a statute that requires background checks for U.S. citizens using marriage brokerage services to date foreign nationals. VAWA 2013 also improved the strength of the provisions surrounding self-petitions and U visas.

In addition to each of these provisions that have increased the protection of the most vulnerable members of our population, VAWA maintains grant programs, sponsors domestic violence coalitions, and plays a significant role in developing state STOP plans.

Numbers Don’t Lie

VAWA has had measurable success as verified by the following statistics. Since the VAWA law was enacted, there has been:

  • An increase of 51 percent in reporting of crimes against women
  • An increase of 37 percent in reporting of crimes against men.
  • Killings by intimate partners has decreased 34 percent for women
  • Killings by intimate partners has decreased 57 percent for men
  • Non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 67 percent

Not only has VAWA saved a great many lives, it has been cost-effective, saving taxpayers $12.6 billion in overall social costs.

There are, as can be seen from the above, a great many factors complicating the issues of domestic and sexual violence, particularly if you are an immigrant. To avoid being victimized by the criminal justice system in addition to being the victim of a serious crime, it is important to make use of all the resources available to you. You should always turn to a highly competent immigration lawyer, like Laura Talamantes, of Talamantes Immigration Law Firm, APC, who has the legal knowledge, skill and compassion to protect you and your loved ones. Talamantes Immigration Law Firm can be reached at 619.916.4570. Talamantes Immigration Law Firm helps clients in Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, San Ysidro, Imperial Beach and Bonita.