LOCK UP

With VAWA Veto And Prison-Rape Rule, Obama Takes Strong Stance Against Sexual Violence

Today the Justice Department today mandated a new set of strict rules to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse in juvenile detention centers and adult prisons and jails, the White House revealed.

Addressing the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA), the measures are the first effort to set standards for protecting inmates from rape and sexual assault on the local, state and federal level. “The standards we establish today reflect the fact that sexual assault crimes committed within our correctional facilities can have devastating consequences – for individual victims and for communities far beyond our jails and prisons,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “These standards are the result of a thoughtful and deliberative process—and represent a critical step forward in protecting the rights and safety of all Americans.”

Of particular note, the rules include mandates to “Screen inmates for risk of being sexually abused or sexually abusive” and “incorporate [the] unique vulnerabilities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming inmates into training and screening protocols.”

This is the second edict the Obama Administration has issued to help address the issue of sexual vuilence: On Tuesday, the White House threatened to veto the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) if protections for LGBT victims were not added back to the bill. “No sexual assault or domestic violence victim should be beaten, hurt, or killed because they could not access needed support, assistance, and protection,” read a statement from the Office of Management and Budget.

The Senate approved a version of VAWA that didn’t include provisions for gay victims in late April—a bill the House just passed 222-205 on Wednesday. It remains to be seen if President Obama will indeed nix the act in hopes of sending it back to Congress.

“It is unfortunate—though not surprising—that some lawmakers refuse to acknowledge the basic dignity and respect LGBT domestic-violence victims deserve,” said HRC director Joe Solomonese. “These lawmakers are leaving victims out in the cold with nowhere to turn for help.”

 Photo: Brian Snelson