COLUMBIA - The U.S. House of Representative passed the Senate's version of the Violence Against Women Act, 286-138, Thursday. The legislation is meant to legally protect the well-being of women in America.
The newly updated version of the act continues funding to women shelters around the U.S. and also for the first time includes coverage of Native American, immigrant and LGBTQ women. VAWA is the first-ever domestic violence protection for the LGBTQ community.
President Barack Obama said "Renewing the bill is an important step toward making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear."
VAWA was not expected to pass this quickly due to the strong opposition of conservative Republicans in Congress. The 138 votes against the VAWA were all cast by members of the Republican party, including former presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann.
"The first step of being able to stop violence from happening is to actually face what's happening," said coordinator for MU LGBTQ Resource Center, Struby Struble.
MU student Sarah Rolufs said "I find it a little ridiculous when it's such a vital and necessary act, it's common sense to pass it."
Kelly Pedigo, coordinator for Safe Passage in Fulton, said "I believe conservatives didn't support it in order to avoid being associated with the 'terms' added to the legislation."
"We shouldn't be leaving out people who suffer from violence because of some demographic, because of some box they check somewhere next to their name", Said Struble.
Now, with immigrant women protected by law under VAWA, they can use Universal Visas at clinics and shelters in order to be approved for treatment.
"Being in a rural part of the country we rarely see any U-Visas but it protects shelters against being charged with harboring illegal immigrants," said Pedigo.
"UN statistics show violence is occuring against women, really it's an epidemic", said Struble. "So if we, in this country, can really show the world we believe in keeping our women safe and keeping all of us safe is important, others will catch on."
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, one in every four women experience severe physical violence from a former or current partner.