Just yesterday, the House of Representatives moved in an ultra reactionary and restrictionist fashion to pass HR 4970 by a vote of 222 to 205. HR 4970 is a bill that undermines and practically eviscerates the protections of the Violence Against Women Act as we know it today. Among its many proposed changes, the bill seeks to eliminate the confidentiality provisions that encourage victims of domestic violence to speak out in the first place. The language of the new version seems to allow adjudicators to reach out to the abuser(s) to confirm or corroborate information, which practically speaking, endangers the safety of the reporting victim and leaves the door open for further abuse and manipulation. Additionally, the standard of proof governing VAWA applications would change from preponderance of the evidence to “clear and convincing” and potentially involve personal interviews by officers not necessarily trained in VAWA cases (the Vermont Service Center which has been handling these cases would no longer have jurisdiction.) The stability provided by the U visa would also be undercut through provisions narrowing circumstances under which law enforcement certifications necessary for U visas would be given. It will be a sad day indeed if this extremist bill becomes a reality. Let’s hope that President Obama has the resolve to veto this legislation if it makes it way to his desk.
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