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Home Articles Ending Domestic Violence What is the Violence Against Women Act?

What is the Violence Against Women Act?

How this important law is helping to make the world a more peaceful place

  • Nov 06, 2014
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  • 6.0k have read
What is the Violence Against Women Act?

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a federal law signed into effect in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. It provided $1.6 billion toward the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. It was also the start of the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.

While 85 percent of domestic violence survivors are women, [1] VAWA also extends to male victims of domestic violence as well as victims of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

VAWA was reauthorized by Congress in 2000 and 2005. When the Senate voted to reauthorize VAWA in April 2012, the House passed its own measure, omitting provisions of the Senate bill that would protect gay individuals, Native Americans living in reservations and undocumented immigrants who are the victims of domestic violence. VAWA was extended nonetheless in February of last year, signed into effect by President Barack Obama, with unanimous democratic support and 87 Republicans voting affirmative. [2]

Since VAWA was first passed, more than 25 colleges and universities reviewed and made changes to their sexual harassment and sexual assault policies. The law has helped fund numerous programs including violence prevention programs, victim assistance services like rape crisis centers and hotlines, legal aid for survivors of domestic violence and violence prevention programs for children and teens. [3] Still, most advocates agree that the work to prevent domestic violence is an ongoing battle.

In a 2011 speech honoring the 17 th anniversary of VAWA, Vice President Joe Biden stated that a study that year showed 25 percent of 6th grade students thought it was OK for boys to hit girls. The study also showed 26 percent of college students agreed with the statement, “Some women who are abused secretly want to be treated that way.” Said Biden, “These attitudes are the reason abuse continues today.”[4]

 “We have so much to do to educate communities, to work with young women and to get the word out,” said Lynn Rosenthal, the White House advisor on Violence Against Women.

To find events honoring the 20 th anniversary of VAWA, you can follow the 20th Anniversary Celebration Facebook page at