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What is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)?

by Kelly B.

What is the Violence Against Women Act

Learn About the Powerful Violence Against Women Act

One of the prevailing social problems is the treatment of women in society. Women face violence from their spouse, partner, and others. Women’s rights activists and advocates through the 1980s and 1990s put in a lot of effort to get the Government to pass legislation to protect the rights of women, especially to address violence.

There was pressure on the Government and lawmakers to pass legislation to address domestic and sexual violence against women.

Their attempts paid off in 1994 with the signing of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The act was brought into effect after President Bill Clinton signed it making it a federal law. The Act provided for an Office on Violence against Women in the Department of Justice. Senator Joe Biden and other representatives drafted the act.

The act was reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013. In 2019, the House of Representatives reauthorized it, but it is yet to be passed by the Senate.

What is the Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act

The act provides for services to victims of:

  • Domestic violence
  • Dating violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Stalking

The features of the VAWA include:

  • A co-ordinated approach for the criminal justice system, social services, and non-profit organizations to work together.
  • Support for working on rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters.
  • Federal prosecution of interstate sexual assault and domestic violence cases.
  • Federal guarantee for interstate enforcement of protection orders.
  • Protection for battered immigrants.

As a result of the passage of the act, there has been a lot of progress that has helped victims of domestic violence. These include:

  • The setting up of the National domestic violence hotline, which receives an average of 22,000 calls a month.
  • More victims are reporting cases of domestic violence now.
  • Businesses have also joined in the effort and have started employee assistance programs for victims of domestic violence.
  • The crimes related to domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault have been defined clearly leading to better prosecution of such cases.
  • More than 600 laws have been passed by various states to fight domestic violence.

Since the passage of the original act, it has been reauthorized thrice. Some of the highlights of the changes in the reauthorized acts include:

  • Setting up of legal assistance programs for victims of domestic violence.
  • Promoting supervised visitation programs for families that experience violence.
  • Protection for immigrants who are experiencing domestic violence.
  • Developing strategies for the prevention of such crimes.
  • Stopping unfair evictions of victims of domestic violence and stalking.
  • Federal funding for rape crisis centers.
Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization
  • Special services for victims with disabilities
  • Protection for children and teenagers within the scope of the act.
  • Assistance offered for victims belonging to the LGBTQ community.
  • Permitting tribal courts to prosecute those who commit domestic violence offenses on tribal land, even if not a member of a tribe.
  • Focus on running education programs in colleges to provide information on dating violence and sexual assault to young people.
  • Enhanced resources for investigating rape cases.
  • Legal aid for survivors of domestic violence.
  • Federal rape shield law enactment.

Violence Against Women Act reauthorization

Once the 2019 reauthorization is approved by the Senate, the following provisions and services would be added to the law:

  • Provision for transgender persons to stay in facilities along with the gender that they identify with.
  • Prohibiting persons convicted under VAWA from purchasing firearms.

These two provisions have created much controversy with opposition from Republican senators. Even though funding under the lapsed act still continues, the act has to be passed by the Senate for it to be revived. It is reported that the Senate is working on a different version to ensure that the law gets bipartisan support.

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