Violence Against Women Act

JWI Executive Director Lori Weinstein leads a panel of experts at the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Senate briefing on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, January 2012.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a landmark piece of legislation that seeks to improve criminal justice and community-based responses to the pervasive crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States.

First passed by Congress in 1994 by then Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), VAWA was the first piece of federal legislation that acknowledged domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes and provided federal resources to respond to and prevent violence against women. Through subsequent five year reauthorizations, VAWA has been expanded upon and improved to meet the needs of victims of dating violence, stalking and to provide programs and services for Native American women and immigrant, rural, disabled, and older victims. VAWA is currently due for reauthorization this Congress.

On April 26, 2011, the U.S. Senate passed S. 1925, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011, a critical piece of bi-partisan legislation introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) in a 68-31 vote. S. 1925 would strengthen and reauthorize VAWA for another five years by building on existing programs and addressing the changing needs of victims and survivors. Specifically, S. 1925 would enhance responses to the widespread crime of sexual assault, focus additional resources on violence prevention and education, better address sexual assault on college campuses, and increase protections for Native women, LGBT victims and immigrant victims of crime.

On May 16, 2012, the House of Representatives also passed its own version of a VAWA reauthorization bill, H.R. 4970, Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2012, in a 222-205 vote. While the House bill excludes key protections included in the Senate-passed bill for vulnerable communities like Native women, LGBT victims and immigrant victims, H.R. 4970 continues many of VAWA’s key grant programs and contains a number of positive provisions.

At this point, however, House and Senate leadership have yet to reconcile their two bills and send a final VAWA reauthorization bill to the President’s desk to sign. JWI is concerned about this delay and urges Congress to act quickly to seek compromise and finalize this legislation.

JWI continues to be a leading voice on VAWA with a strong focus on increasing the participation of the faith community in VAWA programs, combatting elder abuse, and expanding prevention and education efforts centered around youth and teens.

JWI was proud to be an active national partner in the reauthorization process of 2005 and currently serves as a member of the National Steering Committee of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women.

Resources

Tools for the Faith Community to Advocate for the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011

Faith and the Violence Against Women Act

Youth and the Violence Against Women Act

Violence Against Women on College Campuses

Elder Abuse and the Violence Against Women Act

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