By Jueseppi B.
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law (Title IV, sec. 40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, H.R. 3355) signed as Pub.L. 103-322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994. The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.
VAWA was drafted by the office of Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), with support from a broad coalition of advocacy groups. The Act passed through Congress with bipartisan support in 1994, clearing the House by a vote of 235–195 and the Senate by a vote of 61–38, although the following year House Republicans attempted to cut the Act’s funding. In the 2000 Supreme Court case United States v. Morrison, a sharply divided Court struck down the VAWA provision allowing women the right to sue their attackers in federal court. By a 5–4 majority, the Court’s conservative wing overturned the provision as an intrusion on states’ rights.
VAWA was reauthorized by Congress in 2000, and again in December 2005. The Act’s 2012 renewal was fiercely opposed by conservative Republicans, who objected to extending the Act’s protections to same-sex couples and to provisions allowing battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas.
The World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in the same year, concluded that civil society and governments have acknowledged that domestic violence is a public health policy and human rights concern.
The Violence Against Women Act was developed and passed as a result of extensive grassroots efforts in the late 80′s and early 1990s, with advocates and professionals from the battered women’s movement, sexual assault advocates, victim services field, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices, the courts, and the private bar urging Congress to adopt significant legislation to address domestic and sexual violence. Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA’s focus has expanded from domestic violence and sexual assault to also include dating violence and stalking. It funds services to protect adult and teen victims of these crimes, and supports training on these issues, to ensure consistent responses across the country. One of the greatest successes of VAWA is its emphasis on a coordinated community response to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking; courts, law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services, and the private bar currently work together in a coordinated effort that had not heretofore existed on the state and local levels. VAWA also supports the work of community-based organizations that are engaged in work to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, particularly those groups that provide culturally and linguistically specific services. Additionally, VAWA provides specific support for work with tribes and tribal organizations to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking against Indian women.
Many grant programs authorized in VAWA have been funded by the U.S. Congress. The following grant programs, which are administered primarily through the Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice have received appropriations from Congress:
STOP Grants (State Formula Grants); Transitional Housing Grants; Grants to Encourage Arrest and Enforce Protection Orders; Court Training and Improvement Grants; Research on Violence Against Indian Women; National Tribal Sex Offender Registry; Stalker Reduction Database; Federal Victim Assistants; Sexual Assault Services Program; Services for Rural Victims; Civil Legal Assistance for Victims; Elder Abuse Grant Program; Protections and Services for Disabled Victims; Combating Abuse in Public Housing; National Resource Center on Workplace Responses; Violence on College Campuses Grants; Safe Havens Project; Engaging Men and Youth in Prevention.
Debate and legal standing
The American Civil Liberties Union had originally expressed concerns about the Act, saying that the increased penalties were rash, the increased pretrial detention was “repugnant” to the US Constitution, the mandatory HIV testing of those only charged but not convicted is an infringement of a citizen’s right to privacy and the edict for automatic payment of full restitution was non-judicious (see their paper: “Analysis of Major Civil Liberties Abuses in the Crime Bill Conference Report as Passed by the House and the Senate”, dated September 29, 1994). However, the ACLU has supported reauthorization of VAWA on the condition that the “unconstitutional DNA provision” be removed.
The ACLU, in their July 27, 2005 ‘Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee Regarding the Violence Against Women Act of 2005, S. 1197′ stated that “VAWA is one of the most effective pieces of legislation enacted to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. It has dramatically improved the law enforcement response to violence against women and has provided critical services necessary to support women in their struggle to overcome abusive situations.”
Some conservative activists opposed the bill. A spokeswoman for Concerned Women for America called the Act a “boondoggle” which “creates an ideology that all men are guilty and all women are victims.” Phyllis Schlafly denounced VAWA as a tool to “fill feminist coffers” and argued that the Act promoted “divorce, breakup of marriage and hatred of men.”
In 2000 the Supreme Court of the United States held part of VAWA unconstitutional in United States v. Morrison on federalism grounds. Only the civil rights remedy of VAWA was struck down. The provisions providing program funding were unaffected.
Reauthorization is currently being debated in the Senate. Both parties have submitted their own updated version of the bill, one by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the other by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). With both versions of the bill, the Senate judiciary committee voted along partisan lines for their party’s version of the bill.
For a brief moment, it looked as though Congress might be able to reach agreement on two popular pieces of legislation without a fight, but it didn’t take long for Washington’s partisan ways to prevail over any spirit of compromise.
President Obama and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are pressing to maintain the current low rate of interest for student loans and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
Republicans were reluctant to be seen as blocking initiatives that appeal to middle-class voters, especially women. They were, after all, still smarting over losing the showdown they had provoked over cutting the payroll tax, and trying to live down accusations that they were waging a “war on women” for fighting an Obama administration directive on contraceptives.
But not even support for advancing these issues from rank-and-file lawmakers and GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney appears to have tamped down the instinct among congressional Republicans to engage in battle.
The looming confrontations on both issues show how hard it is for Republicans — or Democrats, for that matter — to compromise in this highly contentious environment, even when doing so would arguably be in their political interest.
Sensing that Democrats have them cornered on an issue central to a key voting bloc, Republicans are choosing to fight fire with fire.
The House GOP unveiled a dueling version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization on Wednesday, setting up a confrontation with Senate Democrats who are poised to pass a measure that would extend the law’s protections to Native Americans, gays and undocumented immigrants.
“House Republicans are committed to protecting the true victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), a member of House GOP leadership, told reporters at a Capitol press briefing.
I have a question for Washington lawmakers: Why is it necessary to take a bill on violence against women and stuff it with bull shit legislation that has jack shit to do with violence against women? Politicians do this on just about every piece of legislation that passes through the floor of both houses. WHY?
There should be a law that nothing should be allowed to be tacked onto a bill, that has NO DIRECT EFFECT on said original bill. That would cut the bull shit out of passing bill that are vital to ALL American citizens.
Pass the damn bill as it was originally meant to be, protect women. Pass The Violence Against Women Act NOW.
Programs and services
The Violence Against Women laws provide programs and services, including:
- Community violence prevention programs
- Protections for victims who are evicted from their homes because of events related to domestic violence or stalking
- Funding for victim assistance services, like rape crisis centers and hotlines
- Programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races or ethnicities
- Programs and services for victims with disabilities
- Legal aid for survivors of violence
- Sen. Tom Udall: VAWA ‘crucial’ for Native American women (rawstory.com)
- VAWA Infographic (buddhakat.wordpress.com)
- INFOGRAPHIC: What You Need To Know About The Violence Against Women Act (thinkprogress.org)
- GOP Tries To Water Down Violence Against Women Act, Expresses Willingness To Tolerate Some Domestic Abuse (thinkprogress.org)
- Violence Against Women Act has 60 sponsors but will S.1925 Pass … #VAWA (point4counterpoint.wordpress.com)
- GOP Excludes Protections For LGBT Community In Alternative Violence Against Women Act (thinkprogress.org)
- Strengthening the Violence Against Women Act (whitehouse.gov)
- Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization: Don’t Let that Pesky Constitution Stand in the Way of a Law With a Nice-Sounding Title (openmarket.org)
- Violence Against Women Act: RepubliCANTS Refuse to Renew (theobamacrat.com)
- New Version of Violence Against Women Act Shows GOP Only Hates the Most Vulnerable Women [War On Women] (jezebel.com)
Filed under: Causes, News, Opinion, Politics, POTUS Obama, Women's Causes Tagged: | Bill Clinton, Congress, Domestic violence, Office on Violence Against Women, Republican, United States, VAWA, Violence Against Women Act