From: Cindy Killion
and Diana Miller
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it also is the month during which the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is implementing the reauthorized Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) -- our nation’s response to domestic and sexual violence.
Signed by President Obama in March of this year, the reauthorized act explicitly addresses lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) survivors, and is significant for LGBT people in three ways:
• LGBT people now are identified as underserved populations in need of specific attention to address the unique issues they face as survivors of domestic or intimate partner violence, dating violence, sexual violence and stalking;
• it prohibits VAWA grantees from discriminating against survivors of violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity when providing services;
• it establishes a specific purpose area to address LGBT violence at the state level.
This legislation came shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a national prevalence survey showing that LGBT people experience intimate partner violence and sexual assault at the same or higher rates as heterosexual people, and it came a year after the New York City Anti-Violence Project’s National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that transgender people experience sexual violence at twice the rate of non-transgender people.
The legislation also increases protections for native women, immigrants, communities of color and students, many of whom are a part of LGBT communities.
The LGBT Resource Center for the Seven Rivers Region Inc., which now has a presence in Winona, has joined hundreds of national and local LGBT and anti-violence groups including the Winona Women’s Resource Center, to commend the LGBT-inclusive VAWA and to those who made it possible.
The legislation will make a real difference in the lives of LGBT people, and it ends the silence and isolation that so many LGBT survivors have felt. It also makes LGBT survivors visible and central to our response to domestic and sexual violence.
We know our work with domestic and sexual violence survivors will have to shift significantly from the way in which we do intake with people, to the assumptions we make about gender and violence, to the policies that address protections for survivors based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
To that end, the WRC and the LGBT Resource Center have pledged to work together to educate WRC staff and volunteers about the LGBT community so services are culturally sensitive, and policies and procedures are revised to reflect LGBT needs.
Domestic violence and sexual assault survivors are encouraged to take advantage of the WRC services for survivors, including its 24-hour advocacy program, in which advocates respond to the immediate and ongoing needs of ANY domestic violence and sexual assault survivor. Those in immediate danger should call 911. LGBT people in Winona are encouraged to take advantage of the services offered through The LGBT Resource Center, including appropriate resources and referrals to LGBT people seeking assistance.
You may reach the WRC and the LGBT Resource Center at 452-4440 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 452-4453 if you need advocacy after business hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)