The Violence Against Women Act and other key legislation has helped the United States and Canadian governments prevent domestic violence and treat victims. But some pending legislation is still needed to fill the gaps.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) acknowledged that domestic violence and sexual assault are crimes. It also provided federal resources for community-coordinated responses to violence against women. VAWA has since been reauthorized twice, in 2000 and 2005, and both times Congress has strengthened its scope by:
- Defining dating violence and stalking as crimes;
- Creating a needed legal assistance program for violence survivors;
- Developing prevention strategies; and
- Funding rape crisis centers.
Research by the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women has proven VAWA’s effectiveness: According to the Office’s 2006 Biennial Report to Congress,the incidence of domestic violence has decreased while more women have started to feel comfortable reporting attacks and law enforcement has improved its investigation and prosecution of the crimes.
VAWA is up for re-authorization this year. The Reform Movement, along with other domestic violence advocates and faith communities, have been active in demanding increased funding for prevention and treatment programs, as well as a broader definition of victims to include immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBT couples, so we can continue to reduce the incidence of domestic violence and help those in need.
International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA)—still pending
One out of three women worldwide will be physically, sexually, or otherwise abused during her lifetime, with rates as high as 70% in some countries. The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) seeks to provide concrete tools to women and others fighting to change the circumstances which lead to violence against women and girls.
I-VAWA builds on the tools and lessons of the domestic Violence Against Women Act of 1994. I-VAWA would support U.S. programs around the globe that help prevent violence, support health and survivor services, encourage legal accountability and a change in public attitudes, promote access to economic opportunity and education for women and girls, and support existing similar initiatives worldwide. Furthermore, I-VAWA would make the issue of violence against women a major diplomatic priority.
I-VAWA was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December 2010, but it did not receive a floor vote before the end of the 111thCongress. It must be re-introduced in the 112th Congress if it is to become law. Visit the RAC’s Chai Impact Action Center to urge your elected officials to pass I-VAWA.
Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA)
Enacted in 1984, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) addresses violence against women and children. It funds emergency shelters, hotlines, counseling and other critical services for victims of domestic violence. In fact, it is the only dedicated federal funding source for many of these services.
However, FVPSA has been woefully underfunded, particularly in the last two years after it was allowed to expire in 2008. Fortunately, President Obama signed a reauthorization of FVPSA (along with a reauthorization of child abuse prevention legislation described below) on December 20, 2010 and restored funding to $175 million. The reauthorization will last for five years.
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
Enacted in 1974, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) provides states with federal funding to specifically address the prevention and treatment of child abuse. President Obama’s signing of the CAPTA reauthorization in December 2010 restored funding for this critical legislation, which had also expired in 2008. The reauthorization will last for five years.