The Violence Against Women Act

What is it and why is it crucial for the LGBTQ community?

Image source: The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Intimate partner violence (IPV) has a disproportionately adverse effect on the LGBTQ community because of the impact of societal bias in creating and exacerbating vulnerabilities and in limiting access to services. Experiences of harassment and discrimination of people belonging to marginalized groups such as immigrants, people with disabilities, youth, seniors, communities of color, and LGBTQ communities happens across their lifespans. This results in an array of identity-based experiences of violence including issues such as school bullying, health disparities, job and food insecurities, housing bias, family rejection, and systems based profiling, which in turn creates greater vulnerabilities in experiences of IPV.

A 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control shows that intimate partner violence affects a larger percentage of the LGBTQ population than the heterosexual population. The lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner for lesbian women is 44% and bisexual women is 61% compared to 35% for heterosexual women. For gay men the lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner is 26% and 37% for bisexual men compared to 29% for heterosexual men. Unfortunately, research on IPV within transgender communities is sparse; however, existing data suggests 50% of transgender people will experience IPV during their life.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally signed into law in 1994, provides vital, lifesaving legal protections to survivors of violent crime and extends funding to service providers who support survivors and conduct prevention efforts. Congress reauthorized the law three times since 1994 with each reauthorization of VAWA expanding lifesaving legal protections for survivors and funding sources for service providers.

The 2012 VAWA reauthorization is particularly meaningful for the LGBTQ community as it expanded protections to the LGBTQ community and is the only piece of federal legislation to date that explicitly includes civil rights protections for LGBTQ communities. The protections within VAWA give LGBTQ survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking additional access to supportive services. The 2012 VAWA reauthorization also provided an important funding stream to LGBTQ anti-violence service providers and prevention efforts.

We see firsthand and hear from clients how VAWA funding affects LGBTQ survivors of violence. Many of the Center on Halsted’s Anti Violence Project’s clients express difficulties accessing supports. A survey conducted by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs showed that 85% of LGBTQ survivor advocates report having worked with an LGBTQ survivor who was denied services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The U.S. House of Representatives was schedule to vote on H.R. 1585, the most recent VAWA reauthorization, during the week of April 1, 2019. The VAWA reauthorization up for vote in the House expands legal protections for survivors and increases funding for direct services and violence prevention efforts. Specifically, the VAWA reauthorization increases housing protections for survivors, increases funding for rape prevention efforts, addresses the role of gun violence in IPV homicides, seeks to provide economic security for survivors, and provides additional protections to Native survivors.

Center on Halsted urges Congress to pass H.R. 1585, the first step being passage in the House. We issue a call to action to those who support its passage to please reach out to your Representatives and ask them to co-sponsor and vote in favor of H.R. 1585.

Senator Duckwork is looking for stories from survivors of violence to share with congress to show the importance of VAWA and its reauthorization. If you have a story that you have the capacity to share with us for this purpose, please send it to the Anti-Violence Project at Center on Halsted at For questions or concerns, please email or call our LGBTQ Violence Resource 773.871.CARE (2273).

Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s largest community center dedicated to advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement.

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