Violence Against Women Act
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) creates and supports comprehensive, cost-effective responses to the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Since its enactment, VAWA programs, administered by the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS), have dramatically improved federal, tribal, state, and local responses to these crimes.
Through the original bill, which passed in 1994, VAWA created the first U.S. federal legislation acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes, and provided federal resources to encourage community-coordinated responses to combating violence. Its reauthorization in 2000 improved the foundation established by VAWA 1994 by creating a much-needed legal assistance program for victims and by expanding the definition of crime to include dating violence and stalking. Its subsequent reauthorization in 2005 took a more holistic approach to addressing these crimes and created new programs to meet the emerging needs of communities working to prevent violence. Included in the 2005 reauthorization were new focus areas such as prevention, landmark housing protections for survivors, funding for rape crisis centers, and culturally- and linguistically-specific services. VAWA 2013 ensured the continuation and improvement of these vital, lifesaving programs and expanded provisions to meet the needs of more victims.
2019 Reauthorization Updates
On March 7th, 2019, a bipartisan bill (HR 1585) to renew and improve VAWA was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Hon. Karen Bass (CA-37) and Hon. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1). This bill will reauthorize and improve lifesaving services for all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking – including Native victims, immigrants, LGBTQ+ victims, college students and youth, and public housing residents.
While federal domestic violence programs remain funded through temporary spending bills, the lapse of the underlying law (VAWA) has meant uncertainty for providers around the country. It is more crucial than ever to fully reauthorize VAWA, enhance existing programs, support survivors, and increase prevention efforts.
HR 1585 has passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The bill will be sent to the Senate for consideration in the coming weeks.
Check back for updated information as the bill proceeds to the Senate.
VAWA 2013 Reauthorization
While VAWA has undoubtedly improved our nation’s response to violence, not all victims had been protected or reached through earlier iterations of the bill. VAWA 2013, signed into law by President Obama on March 7, 2013, closed critical gaps in services and justice. It reauthorized and improved upon lifesaving services for all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking – including Native women, immigrants, LGBT victims, college students and youth, and public housing residents:
- Justice and safety for Native American Women: Native American victims of domestic violence often cannot seek justice because their courts are not allowed to prosecute non-Native offenders — even for crimes committed on Tribal land. This major gap in justice, safety, and violence prevention must be addressed. VAWA 2013 includes a solution that would give Tribal courts the authority they need to hold offenders in their communities accountable.
- Justice and safety for LGBT survivors: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survivors of violence experience the same rates of violence as straight individuals. However, LGBT survivors sometimes face discrimination when seeking help and protection. VAWA 2013 prohibits such discrimination to ensure that all victims of violence have access to the same services and protection to overcome trauma and find safety.
- Safe housing for survivors: Landmark VAWA housing protections that were passed in 2005 have helped prevent discrimination against and unjust evictions of survivors of domestic violence in public and assisted housing. The law, however, did not cover all federally subsidized housing programs. VAWA 2013 expands these protections to individuals in all federally subsidized housing programs, explicitly protects victims of sexual assault and creates emergency housing transfer options.
- Protections for immigrant survivors: VAWA 2013 maintains important protections for immigrant survivors of abuse, while also making key improvements to existing provisions including by strengthening the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act and the provisions around self-petitions and U visas.
- Justice on campuses: College students are among those most vulnerable to dating violence. Provisions in VAWA 2013 add additional protections for students by requiring schools to implement a recording process for incidences of dating violence, as well as report the findings. In addition, schools would be required to create plans to prevent this violence and educate victims on their rights and resources.
- Maintaining VAWA grant programs: VAWA grants are effectively meeting the needs of millions of victims across the country. VAWA 2013 includes many important improvements to these grant programs, including allowing state domestic violence coalitions to be the lead applicant on the Grants to Encourage Arrest program; ensuring that specific stakeholders, including domestic violence coalitions, play a meaningful role in developing state STOP plans; and providing a formal process for the Office on Violence Against Women to receive coalition and other key domestic violence and sexual assault community input.
Click here for a detailed analysis of VAWA 2013.
NNEDV’s Role in VAWA Reauthorization
NNEDV played an integral role in efforts to reauthorize VAWA. NNEDV and its member state domestic violence coalitions also played a crucial role in the passage of VAWA in 1994 and its reauthorizations in 2000 and 2005. NNEDV is currently working with state coalitions, national organizations, and Congress to ensure the successful implementation of VAWA and to secure targeted investments in VAWA grant programs through the appropriations process.
- NNEDV’s press statements on VAWA
- NNEDV’s President Kim Gandy on MSNBC
- NNEDV’s Vice President of Development & Innovation Cindy Southworth on PBS