By Greg Hernandez
When President Joe Biden signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law last week, it was a dream come true for Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Impact Officer Terra Russell-Slavin.
The VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022 made history as the first federal legislation to create a stand-alone grant program specific to the LGBTQ community.
“In policy, you can go a long time without big wins — this is a very big win,” says Russell-Slavin, who had steadfastly worked for six years on the reauthorization.
The long-stalled legislation was part of the omnibus appropriations bill and reauthorizes VAWA until 2027. It includes enhancements to increase access to VAWA-funded programs, improves VAWA’s responsiveness to the needs of survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and includes the strongest-ever provisions to benefit LGBTQ survivors.
Russell-Slavin, national chair of the LGBT subject matter committee on VAWA as part of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, was at The White House to celebrate the VAWA signing as well to attend the Women’s History Month event.
“It was surreal,” she said. “it was just so joyful to be able to celebrate this historic win. It’s not just about fighting against the attempts to erase and harm us, but it’s also fighting for the services we need.”
Russell-Slavin points out that the VAWA reauthorization sends a much-needed national message of support to LGBTQ survivors at a time when the community is under attack in statehouses across the country with anti-LGBTQ bills.
The new grant program is specifically designed to combat domestic violence and sexual assault against LGBTQ+ individuals through prevention education, outreach, and training to organizations and other entities focused on serving victims.
During the Trump administration, Russell-Slavin and other activists were just desperately trying to ensure that protections gained in 2013 through VAWA were not rolled back while simultaneously trying to push forward and make the case for why LGBTQ specific services were needed.
“To now get to the Biden administration and have the president sign the first-ever stand-alone LGBTQ specific grant program in federal law and for it to be for LGBTQ survivors, it’s monumental,” she says. “It feels incredible to be a part of such a historic achievement.”
The Center operates two programs for LGBTQ survivors. The Center’s STOP Violence Program strives to increase access to mental health and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence, intimate partner abuse, sexual assault as well as other crimes. If you need assistance from our STOP Violence Program, please call 323-860-5806 or email [email protected].
The Center’s Legal Advocacy Project for Survivors provides LGBTQ-specific trauma-informed direct legal services and advocacy for victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, trafficking and/or other crime victimization. To access these legal services, please call 323-993-7649 or email [email protected].