Violence Against Women Act
Signed into law in 1994 as part of a larger omnibus crime bill, the Violence Against Women Act was groundbreaking federal legislation that sought to bolster the state-level response to domestic and sexual violence. Prior to enactment of VAWA, state courts and law enforcement, for instance, were finding it complicated to respond to domestic and sexual violence cases where abusers crossed state lines in order to commit violence, or while committing it. Protection orders were only valid in the state where they were issued. And domestic violence shelters, and services for victims of domestic and sexual violence were chronically underfunded.
VAWA’s approach to these problems was unique: a combination of statutes to respond to gaps in the law, e.g. creation of a new federal crime of interstate domestic violence, ensuring full faith and credit (enforcement across state lines) for civil protection orders and providing a new source of federal funding designed to encourage collaboration and coordination among key actors at the state level including law enforcement, prosecutors, service providers, courts, and technical assistance providers.
Championed by then-Senator Joe Biden, Senator Orrin Hatch, Rep. John Conyers and Rep. Connie Morella, VAWA was also significant in that its programs were designed to address the unique needs of various communities, including immigrant survivors, rural survivors, Native women and communities of color, among others. Since its creation in 1994, VAWA has been reauthorized 3 times including most recently March of 2013 when it was signed into law by President Obama.
Legal Momentum led the effort to pass the initial VAWA. When reauthorization legislation is pending in Congress, Legal Momentum works in coalition to see that each reauthorization increases rights and resources for victims and improves community support structures, such as shelters and law enforcement, which protect victims and prevent violence.
Learn more about rights and resources for survivors of violence, the Violence Against Women Act, the congressional reauthorization process, and the importance of federal funding programs serving domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking victims.
Legal Momentum’s reports and resources related to VAWA,
its history, and its impact.