DESPITE SOME RESISTANCE, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization last week. The reauthorization of the law comes in the midst of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and earned praise from the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
The reauthorized bill aims to improve services for survivors of violence, expand housing protections for survivor and expand training and prevention programs, as it did when first enacted in 1994, according to the bill’s co-sponsors Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Republican-Pennsylvania) and Karen Bass (Democrat-California). The need for it arose from the nation’s crisis of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.
“VAWA programs have provided educational tools and helped survivors and their families get the resources they need to begin the healing process,” Fitzpatrick said. “This is not a partisan issue which is why I put a special emphasis on working to build bipartisan support for this critical legislation.”
The new reauthorization comes with several changes to the program, including more money for bullying prevention training and services; updated STOP grants that help law enforcement combat violent crimes against women and children; updates to the SMART Prevention Program against dating violence; expanded housing protections for survivors; and a prohibition against those convicted of domestic violence and stalking possessing firearms.
It was the last element, particularly the fact that the reauthorized bill includes misdemeanor DV convictions as well as felonies, that led the National Rifle Association to call for a no vote on the bill, according to NPR. The NRA also protested the closing of the “boyfriend loophole” by expanding the prohibition against gun ownership to dating partners convicted of abuse or stalking.
“The gun control lobby and anti-gun politicians are intentionally politicizing the Violence Against Women Act as a smokescreen to push their gun control agenda,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told NPR. “Gun rights activists say the new provisions are too low of a threshold to deny someone a constitutional right for the rest of their life.”
But the bill passed despite the NRA opposition, and AHLA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Brian Crawford applauded that passage.
“As an industry, hotels have been investing in employee and guest safety for decades, working with experts to continuously update protocols and procedures that keep both employees and guests safe,” Crawford said.
Last week, AHLA launched a campaign in support of April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month that includes a social media campaign and other actions.
“As part of our month-long campaign, AHLA’s 2019 board of directors united against sexual violence with an open letter in The Wall Street Journal, and by wearing jeans as part of a social media movement ahead of Peace Over Violence’s Denim Day on April 24,” Crawford said. “In addition to this initiative throughout April, AHLA, with the support of most major hotel brands, recently unveiled the 5-Star Promise, a commitment protect employees and guests against harassment assault, and trafficking. This pledge is a first of its kind promise focused on how we help protect our employees, particularly women who are often the victims of these crimes.”
The association also has long offered members training on recognizing and preventing human trafficking. In January it observed National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.