On March 7th, President Obama signed the Reauthorization of The Violence Against Women Act (S.47) into a law. The Violence Against Women Act(VAWA) was first authorized in 1994, and created funds and an atmosphere for change around the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. For the first time the judicial system, law enforcement, health care, and domestic violence/sexual assault centers were able to come together and create a coordinated response to the growing epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault. Fast forward seventeen years to 2010 when congress allowed VAWA to expire which caused programs to suffer and put victim services in jeopardy.
VAWA, A History:
- VAWA is initially passed creating the first U.S. federal legislation acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes
- Provided resources for communities to create community coordinated responses to violence.
- VAWA is reauthorized for the first time
- Legal assistance programs are created to help victims
- Dating violence and stalking are included in the legal definitions of crimes
- VAWA is reauthorized for the second time
- Prevention becomes a new focus area
- Landmark housing protection for survivors are established
- New funding is allotted to start up Rape Crisis Centers
- Culturally and linguistically specific services are created
- Congress allows VAWA to expire
- February 12th VAWA is passed in the Senate 78/22
- February 28th VAWA is passed in the House 286/138
- March 7th VAWA is signed into law by President Barack Obama
- VAWA is reauthorized for the third time
New Provisions in VAWA 2013:
With the signing of VAWA, new provisions have been given to communities and agencies to combat the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Now there are programs and resources for all victims of violence including: Native women, immigrants, LGBTQ victims, college students and youth, and public housing residents. Wording has been altered to include male victims as well.
Native American victims of abuse are often at a loss when it comes to prosecuting non-tribal offenders. Their courts do not have the authority to try non-native perpetrators even if the violence happened on tribal lands. VAWA amended this by giving tribal courts the authority to try non-tribal offenders for certain crimes committed on tribal lands including: domestic violence, dating violence, and violations of protection orders.
The rate of domestic and sexual violence among the LGBTQ community is just as high if not higher than that of the heterosexual community. Before VAWA 2013, the LGBTQ community was an underserved population due to sexual orientation discrimination. VAWA 2013 clarifies that LGBTQ individuals and programs can receive funding through VAWA, opening a door for victims to receive help with greater ease.
The reauthorization of VAWA in 2005 was monumental in creating housing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, making harder for victims to be discriminated against and unjustly evicted from public and assisted housing. 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.
Immigrants, such as victims of human trafficking, who are victimized in the United States are giving special roads to visas and citizenship through previous authorizations of VAWA. The 2013 reauthorization strengthens these provisions through changes to the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act and by strengthening provisions around self-petitions and U Visas.
College students are often overlooked as victims of domestic violence (specifically dating violence), but they have some of the highest rates of domestic violence. VAWA 2013 requires schools to maintain a record of all dating violence incidences on campus as well as report those findings. Schools are also required to make plans on how to prevent violence on campus as well as making sure victims are educated on their rights and resources.
How Effective is VAWA Really?
VAWA was enacted to create and support comprehensive, cost effective responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Since 1994, VAWA funded programs have drastically improved federal, tribal, state, and local responses to these crimes. Reporting has increased by 51% by women and 37% by men. Intimate partner homicides have decrease by 34% for women and 57% for men. Non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by an amazing 67%. VAWA is cost effective. In the first six years, VAWA saved tax payers over $12 billion dollars.
None of us ever expect to be victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, or stalking, but the truth is we can be. And if we ever are in need of services, protection, or support we know there will be a VAWA funded agency close by that can help us.
National Network to End Domestic Violence
National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women