Violence Against Women’s Act Reauthorization

Jill Schirling-Allison
Managing Legal Advocate
Fulton County / Safe Families Office

The Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) passed congress in 1994 with bipartisan legislative support and broad support from advocacy groups. VAWA provided $1.6 billion towards the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and provided resources for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. VAWA was an important part of enforcing the perspective and reality that gender-based violence is a crime and not a personal family matter. VAWA also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Justice Department. Since VAWA’s passing in 1994, Congress has reauthorized VAWA three times. With each re-authorization of VAWA, more protections and services have been added to VAWA for survivors of violent crimes. In 2012 VAWA was reauthorized to include protections for same-sex couples and provisions allowing undocumented victims of domestic violence to claim temporary visas.

VAWA’s 2019 reauthorization bill includes several new provisions that would extend its protection to more people.  It addresses major issues stemming from dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault. There are increases in protection for men and children who are victims of family violence and increased protection for Native American Women.  This is particularly important as non-native people do not currently face legal consequences for sexual assault, stalking or trafficking crimes against native women on the reservations.  Finally, the bill is set to be more inclusive of the LGBTQ community.

The need for the expansion of VAWA:

  1. The expansion of protection for dating violence will have a significant impact on teenage and young adult females.  Girls between the ages of 16 to 24 experience intimate violence at three times the national average. Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications for survivors causing a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, suicide attempts, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
  2. Native American women experience sexual assault at the rate of 56% and rarely see the aggressor prosecuted or convicted through the legal system.
  3. The LGBTQ community experience rates of sexual and physical violence at the same or higher rate than in the straight community.  It is imperative that they receive equal protection.

If you feel it’s important for VAWA to be reauthorized, you can help facilitate this by contacting your local legislator and expressing your concerns. PADV and other similar organizations depend on VAWA re-authorization to better serve clients.

The current unpredictability of VAWA’s reauthorization reminds us of the importance of private donations that will ensure our ability to continue the fight to end intimate partner violence in our community. For more information about PADV and to donate Click Here.