The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally passed in 1994, was a groundbreaking piece of bipartisan legislation. It provided $1.6 billion towards investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, and imposed mandatory restitution against those convicted of crimes of violence against women. It also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.
VAWA was reauthorized by bipartisan majorities in Congress in 2000, and again in 2005, and was signed by President George W. Bush. Its renewal was opposed by some Republicans in 2012-2013, who objected to the extension of its protections to same sex couples and allowing undocumented immigrants to seek temporary visas if they had been subjected to abuse, but it was reauthorized again in 2013. It is now up for reauthorization before Congress.
VAWA has always enjoyed wide bipartisan support — both Republicans and Democrats strongly believe in the purpose of this law. While there may be some disagreements about some components of the bill, all fundamentally agree with its principles: to protect victims of gender-based violence.
In terms of federal laws, VAWA has been a massive success. It has vastly improved services for victims of sexual and domestic violence, as well as stalking. It has also increased training and education about violence against women for health professionals, victim advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges. Over the years, VAWA has enacted many important changes to our law, including banning states from charging rape victims for their own sexual assault examinations, and criminalizing stalking via electronic surveillance.
Last week, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), working closely with the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, introduced a reauthorization of VAWA. We back this VAWA legislation 100%, and ask you to do the same.
Each reauthorization of VAWA includes new issues brought forth by advocates who work with victims and see the need for change. The legislation introduced by Representative Jackson, H.R. 6545, includes all of the suggestions made by the National Task Force. This includes the following changes:
Increases authorization for the Rape Prevention & Education Program from $50 million to $150 million to address skyrocketing need and demand for community prevention programs.
Returns sovereignty to tribes to prosecute non-native offenders of sexual assault, trafficking, stalking, and child abuse.
Adds new definitions including Abuse in Later Life; Alternative Justice Response; Digital Services; Forced Marriage; Economic Abuse; and Technological Abuse, and updates the definition of domestic violence.
Strengthens public housing protections for survivors including those seeking housing transfers based on safety concerns.
Adds a new purpose to the Improving Criminal Justice Response grant program to implement alternative justice responses that are focused on victim autonomy, agency and safety to provide resolution and restitution for the victim.
Strengthens privacy protections across state lines, online with digital records, and preserves confidentiality upon a victim’s death in accordance with their wishes.
Acknowledges the trauma of incarceration on women and their family members, especially their children, and improves health care services and trauma informed responses to better prepare incarcerated women to return to their communities.
Improves enforcement of current federal domestic violence-related firearms laws and closes loopholes to reduce firearm-involved abuse and intimate partner homicide.
Expands VAWA’s ability to respond to sexual harassment.
The current expiration deadline for VAWA is September 30, 2018. That is why we are asking all of our supporters to take the following actions:
Call your representative today and ask them to co-sponsor Representative Lee’s VAWA legislation!
Tweet at your representative asking them to co-sponsor Representative Lee’s VAWA legislation!
E-mail, fax, or write to your representative to ask them to co-sponsor Representative Lee’s VAWA legislation!
VAWA is critically important to the work that we do at Blackburn Center. That is why we are asking you to take these action steps today!