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Violence Against Women Act Fact-Sheet

The following  fact-sheet was developed by James Marshall Public Policy Scholar Katya Migacheva.  It provides scientific support for specific provisions of the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) :


VAWA should explicitly state the protections for LGBTQ victims of violence, and ensure that service providers receive appropriate training for working with LGBTQ individuals

·   Domestic violence within same-sex relationships occurs nearly as often as it does in heterosexual relationships (Koss, 1990; Letellier, 1994; Pitt, 2000). However, the crime is vastly underreported in the LGBT communities (Turell, 2000).

·   Because reporting rates and prosecution rates are very low, services are particularly important for this population. But:·   LGBTQ victims are often denied services: according to a 2010 survey, 45 percent of LGBTQ victims were turned away when they sought help from a domestic violence shelter, and nearly 55 percent of those who sought protection orders were denied them (National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs,

·   Many victim services providers lack services specific to the needs of LGBTQ victims and have not received training in how to assist with the unique needs of these victims (Burt, 2007).  Hence, the services that the LGBTQ victims do receive are often perceived as unhelpful (Israel et al., 2012), and lead to reluctance to seek help again (Ard & Macadon, 2011).

·   If VAWA does not state explicit protections to LGBTQ victims of violence, formal help providers may negatively influence a survivor’s future appraisal of needs, their perceptions of availability of help, and formal help-seeking process (Kennedy et al., 2012).

·   Without proper training, people exhibit biases when evaluating domestic abuse that occurred in heterosexual vs. homosexual relationships (Poorman, Seelau, & Seelau, 2003). Research on this topic suggests that people perceive same-sex victims to be less believable than heterosexual victims, consider male against female abuse to be more serious than same-sex domestic abuse, and are less likely to recommend that the victim press charges.


Tribes should be granted jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of violence against women

·   Requesting assistance from an outsider or authority figure may be unacceptable for many Native women because of cultural norms of self-sufficiency and taking care of problems within the family (Edleson & Frank, 1991).

·   Native peoples in general, and Native women in particular, have a long history of distrust for federal agencies, programs, and policies, making it difficult to reach out today for assistance in domestic violence cases. By understanding those community characteristics and working within the community context, local solutions to problems that are specific to their needs will be more culturally and historically consistent (Bubar & Thurman, 2004).

·   Seventy-five percent of all reported incidents of domestic violence against Native American women occur in relationships in which the offender is non-Indian (Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice). Tribes' ability to respond effectively to domestic violence is severely hampered by substantial jurisdictional gaps in tribal authority and the American legal community's rejection of non-Western mechanisms of tribal redress and jurisdiction.

·   Because of the jurisdictional gap, the violent crimes perpetrated by non-Native perpetrators against Native women often go unpunished. Such impunity of perpetrators is likely to encourage re-offense and a targeted abuse of Native women (Hart & Lowether, 2008).


The mainstream services are rarely effective in meeting the needs of the survivors of partner violence who belong to the ethnic minority communities. Specific, culturally-competent approach to victim services should be supported

·   Research has documented that many services designed to assist survivors of intimate partner violence take a mainstream, color-blind approach to their interventions (Gillum, 2008). 

·   Culturally specific and competent interventionsare essential to adequately address the issue of violence within the ethnic minority communities (e.g., Kulwiki, et al., 2010)

·   Women of color describe mostly problematic experiences with mainstream services and positive experiences with the culturally specific agency (Gillum, 2009).

·   Women of color, especially those who are poor or low-income may face discrimination from providers related to their race/ethnicity, immigration status, or limited English proficiency (Bauer et al. 2000; Donnely et al., 1999; Gillum, 2008).


VAWA should acknowledge the peculiar situation of immigrant victims of partner violence, and ensure that reporting and removal laws do not stand in the way of immigrant women ability to seek help, and their safety in doing so.

·   Cases of battered immigrants are ultimately complicated by their abuser's use of immigration status as a tool of control. Research on domestic violence indicates that immigrant women are very often victims of domestic violence due to vulnerability related to their immigration status (Narayan, 1995; Abraham, 2000; Dasgupta, 1998).

·   Spousal threats of deportation, of not filing immigration papers, or of withdrawing these papers are frequently cited by the immigrant victims of violence as their partners’ power and control tactic in abusive relationships. In studies conducted on the topic, as high as 64% of the participants state that fear of deportation prevented them from leaving the abusive relationship and seeking help (Erez, 2000; Orloff & Little, 2012).

·   For those women who overcome these barriers and do access the system, there are additional problems to solve in order to obtain help. These multifaceted obstacles can create damming effects for these women, thereby reducing their current and future use of and reliance on the system (Erez & Hartley, 2003).

·   Efforts should be made to protect immigrant women’s confidentiality, when they report their abuse. If found out that they reported their partner, these women risk not only retaliation from the abuser, but also shunning by the broader community to which they belong (Erez et al., 2003; Wachhols & Baukje, 2003).


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