VAWA: What’s happening and why you should care

In the last year, JWI and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence have spent countless hours working to update the Violence Against Women Act. Here’s what you need to know before the bill is finally introduced this week.

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What’s VAWA?

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

The passage of VAWA in 1994 and its reauthorization in 2000, 2005 and 2013 has changed the landscape for victims who once suffered in silence. VAWA is the original legislation that made intimate partner violence a crime.

Why are we talking about it?

Intimate partner violence continues to harm millions of women each year.

  • One in three women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. 

  • Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are at the greatest risk of abuse by an intimate partner.

  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violence crime.

  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of a woman being killed by 500%. 

Has the bill been successful in the past?

The Office of Violence Against Women reports in their 2016 Biennial Report to Congress that from July 2013 to June 2015 VAWA funded more than 1 million services to victims.

  • 1,926,892 housing bed nights

  • 591,788 hotline calls

  • 97,534 civil legal advocacy

  • 85,990 criminal justice advocacy

  • 19,602 youth through prevention programming

So what’s happening now?

VAWA is currently unauthorized (learn more), but the recently passed bipartisan, bicameral funding bill appropriated a record $497.5 million for VAWA for the 2019 fiscal year.

JWI, and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, have been working with Congress for over a year to craft and pass a strong VAWA reauthorization bill with critical enhancements, including meaningful provisions to address violence against Native women, increased funding for youth prevention programming, necessary improvements to housing provisions, and homicide reduction initiatives to improve enforcement of current domestic violence-related firearms laws.

This Thursday, March 7th at 10AM the House Committee on The Judiciary is holding a hearing on the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This is the first time in five years that Congress will have a hearing on the importance of the Violence Against Women Act and ways the bill can be improved to support survivors. Members on the committee will push for modest but critical VAWA improvements that increase funding for rape prevention education; ensure that abusers can't access firearms; and end impunity for non-Native offenders of sexual assault on Tribal land. You can learn more and watch the hearing here!