The Family Violence Prevention Fund has recently released a report, “Recommendations from the Frontlines:
What Los Angeles County Service Providers Need from the Next Violence Against Women Act.”
The report features a number of recommendations regarding needed changes for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Many of the recommendations address the need to reach out to traditionally under-served populations, especially the LBQT community, male victims, immigrants, and the deaf.
An excerpt from the report is shown below.
Recommendations from the Frontlines:
What Los Angeles County Service Providers
Need from the Next Violence Against Women Act
Family Violence Prevention and Services Fund
383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94103
As part of a year-long process of education and training, domestic and sexual violence advocates from the Los Angeles area convened in the Fall of 2010 to develop recommendations for policymakers to help victims of domestic and sexual violence. Advocates focused specifically on provisions in the Violence Against Women Act as well as other federal policies that impact victims and the advocates who serve them. More than 60 individuals representing more than 47 organizations participated in this process (The list of attending organizations can be found as an appendix to this document).
During an educational briefing with policy makers and their staff, advocates presented their experiences with existing policies as well as potential strategies for improving federal policy in the future. This brief is an explanation of those recommendations with supporting information.
Specifically, advocates prioritized the following six needs:
1. Continue and expand support for particularly vulnerable populations including the
elderly and the disabled and fund services for currently underserved populations
including victims of gang-affiliated batterers, immigrants, and gay, lesbian, bisexual,
transgender, and male victims;
2. Invest in primary prevention education and programming for youth on how to build
healthy relationships and prevent teen dating violence;
3. Provide training and more comprehensive services to help victims struggling with
substance abuse and mental health disorders;
4. Increase support for victims with Family Court custody, visitation, and assistance
5. Augment programs and services for sexual assault survivors, particularly veterans;
6. Revise language in Grants to Encourage Arrest Program to remove identical state
requirement regarding HIV/AIDS testing.
I. Expand Outreach and Services to More Underserved Populations
Overwhelmingly, advocates recommended expanding the types of victims that the Violence Against Women Act programs are authorized to serve and increasing the capacity of service providers and law enforcement to meet the needs of diverse communities. Speakers at the listening session represented a range of service providers with specific needs.
Providers requested funding for the underserved communities grant program as well as the stand-alone grant programs – Elder Abuse and Protections and Services for Disabled Victims. Advocates also stressed that current programs regarding Linguistically and Culturally Specific Services continue to receive support and be expanded to include more communities.
A. LGBTQ VICTIMS
- In 2009, 2,004 LGBTQ domestic violence cases were reported in greater Los Angeles, an increase from 1,551 cases in 2008. Of these cases, 1,068 were female victims, 699 were male, and 146 were transgender. Ninety-two victims said they had a disability; 41 reported police misconduct during an arrest and 21 reported arrest of survivor or dual arrest.
- Even though LGBTQ violence happens at the same rate as heterosexual relationships, services have not been available to this population. Los Angeles survey respondents said that education; outreach; services specifically designed for the LGBTQ community; and training of mainstream providers would help decrease intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community.
B. VICTIMS OF GANG-AFFILIATED BATTERERS
- There are no data in Los Angeles or nationally on the prevalence of domestic violence victims who are also victimized as a result of gang-related violence; gang violence has been seen as separate issue from domestic violence.
- Experts in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office suggest, however, that gang involvement is often closely tied to family and sexual violence as individuals frequently join gangs when fleeing violent homes and because gang membership reinforces the idea that violence is an acceptable way of solving problems between individuals and within families.
- Victims of these gang members have unique service needs because their assailants threaten to harm them either directly or indirectly via a fellow gang member. Since gang life is territorial, the victims often feel unsafe in their entire neighborhood.
C. IMMIGRANT VICTIMS
- When first passed in 1994, VAWA created legal relief for battered immigrants that made it more difficult for abusers to use immigration law to prevent victims from calling the police or seeking safety. Immigrant women married to citizens or permanent residents could self-petition for immigrant status, and battered immigrants could get help from all legal service organizations regardless of immigration status.
- In 2000, VAWA created a new nonimmigrant visa for certain battered non-citizens and other crime victims not protected by the original Violence Against Women Act of 1994, and in 2005 VAWA reauthorization further eliminated some of the major obstacles immigrant crime survivors face in achieving safety. Unfortunately, several significant barriers remain to protecting immigrant survivors and their families.
D. MALE VICTIMS
- Approximately 15 percent of victimizations are against men.iv Some victims’ services programs, especially those that are shelter-related, do not offer as many services for male victims.
1. Expand the definition of underserved communities to explicitly include the LGBTQ community and victims of gang-affiliated batterers; and strengthen and add more funding for a specific “underserved communities” grant program;
2. Include these two populations specifically in other VAWA grant programs ie. LGBTQ youth dating violence and prevention efforts, protections for gang-affiliated immigrant partners, as well as increased training opportunities;
3.Provide a specific provision in the STOP funding formula grant to fund LGBTQ survivor service agencies and clarify that LGBTQ agencies are eligible recipients of STOP funding, since current interpretations have been used to exclude LGBTQ specific-agencies from applying for funds;
4. Specify that VAWA grant recipients must certify that they do not discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, as recommended by Men’s Health Network;
5. Allocate funds for research to develop data on victims of gang-related batterers, as well as programs, training and services to assist these victims; and require VAWA-funded service providers screen for batterer’s gang affiliation, and are equipped to serve these victims safely;
6. Fund applications that specifically address the cultural needs of the Deaf community, while integrating the use of American Sign Language (ASL) to ensure victims’ cultural and linguistic needs are being met when accessing services, and create separate funding specifically for accessibility accommodations that DV shelters and agencies can apply for in addition to the provision of services.
7. Allow waivers for VAWA self-petitioning (I-360) clients who are currently unable to adjust to permanent residency due to various grounds of inadmissibility that cannot be waived (i.e. re-entering the United States after a previous deportation/removal);
8. Provide protections for derivative children in situations where the self-petitioner dies;
9. Give immigrant domestic violence victims access to Section 8 and other subsidized housing;
10. Create a provision that would allow VAWA self-petitioning (I-360 petitioners) to waive the same grounds that may be waived for U-visa applicants and create a path to lawful permanent resident status; and
11. Maintain existing prohibitions on discriminating against male victims.