Baldwin, Kaine pushing Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act against child abuse
Two senators from the Democratic Party are pushing for legislation that would strengthen support for LGBTQ youth, especially against the risk of child abuse, through the “Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act.”
Through this new legislation, Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI) and Tim Kaine (VA) want to amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which was first passed in 1974.
The latter bill sets standards for defining and reporting child abuse, even while providing states with federal funding for the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of abuse.
Passing the Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act
The amendments to the legislation focus on LGBTQ youth who are at risk of or who have suffered child abuse. In fact, this is the first time the legislation will explicitly account for LGBTQ youth.
“We need to do more to better understand and address the abuse of LGBTQ youth,” said Baldwin in a statement.
The senator is one of the only two openly LGBTQ people in the Senate, and the first lesbian in the Senate. The other LGBTQ senator is Krysten Sinema (AZ), who is also the first bisexual.
Baldwin added: “This reform will help child welfare professionals better protect LGBTQ youth from child abuse and neglect, and help victims of abuse recover from the trauma that it brings.”
“Abuse has devastating impacts on children’s lives, and more resources are needed to both prevent maltreatment and help those recovering from trauma,” Kaine said in a statement.
The specifics of the Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act
The legislation being pushed by the two senators would amend the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act by calling on government agencies to research ways to protect LGBTQ youth from abuse and neglect.
It would also expand demographic information collected in child abuse reports to include sexual orientation and gender identity data.
Moreover, there is a need to train personnel to meet the unique needs of LGBTQ youth, even while requiring individuals experienced in working with LGBTQ youth and families to participate in state task forces.
Prior to this amendment, the 1974 bill had already updated several times, as recent as last January following the passing of the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2018.
The numbers on LGBTQ youth and child abuse
According to a 2011 analysis of 37 school-based studies published in the American Journal of Public Health, LGBTQ youth are almost four times more likely to experience childhood sexual abuse as compared to heterosexual youth.
They’re also 20 percent more likely to experience physical abuse from a parent or guardian as compared to their straight counterparts.
The National Institutes for Health said LGBTQ youth are 3.8 times to face sexual abuse and 1.2 times more likely to face parental physical abuse.
Meanwhile, the government’s Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs reported that LGBTQ youth are “overrepresented in child welfare systems, despite the fact that they are likely to be underreported.”
The group said this is because they run the risk of harassment and abuse if their LGBTQ identity is disclosed.
Lack of protection for LGBTQ youth
Ryan Thoreson, an LGBTQ rights researcher at the Human Rights Watch, said there are “very few” federal protections that expressly include sexual orientation and gender identity.
This is despite, Thoreson said, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Violence Against Women Act.
“The Protecting LGBTQ Youth Act is representative of the growing recognition that sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t be used to make children more vulnerable to discrimination and violence,” he told NBC News.
He added: “States don’t just have a responsibility to respect human rights; they have a responsibility to protect against human rights violations.”