DemDaily: Violence. Women. Act.

September 19, 2019

Friday, September 13th, was the 25th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, the landmark legislation that creates and supports comprehensive, cost-effective responses to the pervasive and insidious crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

The Violence Against Women Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994, created the first U.S. federal legislation acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes.

Co-written by then-Senator Joe Biden (DE) and the late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY), VAWA provided $1.6 billion in federal resources 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 un-prosecuted. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.

The late Louise Slaughter (NY) co-wrote WAVA with then Senator Joe Biden

In the 2000 United States v. Morrison case, the US Supreme Court struck down, by a divided 5-4 vote, the VAWA provision allowing women the right to sue their attackers in federal court, citing the provision as exceeding the federal government's powers under the Commerce Clause.

It was reauthorized by bipartisan majorities in Congress in 2000, expanded WAVA by creating a much-needed legal assistance program for victims and by expanding the definition of crime to include dating violence and stalking.

Its subsequent reauthorization in 2005 further created new programs, including prevention, landmark housing protections for survivors, funding for rape crisis centers, and culturally-and linguistically-specific services.

The Act's 2012 renewal was opposed by conservative Republicans, who objected to extending the Act's protections to same-sex couples and to provisions allowing battered undocumented immigrants to claim temporary visas, but it was reauthorized in 2013 after a long legislative battle.

Between 2014-2016, VAWA programs provided over 1 million services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and/or child or elder abuse.
VAWA supports nearly 1,900 domestic violence programs and over 1,300 rape crisis centers that provide core services such as crisis intervention, specialized education, and solutions to prevent violence.

As a result of the federal government shutdown of 2018-2019, the Violence Against Women Act expired on December 21, 2018. It was temporarily reinstated via a short-term spending bill on January 25, 2019, but expired again on February 15, 2019.

On April 4, 2019, the US House of Representatives, with bipartisan support, passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019.

H.R. 1585, co-sponsored by Congresspersons Karen Bass (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), includes new provisions protecting Native victims, immigrants, LGBTQ+ victims, college students and youth, and public housing.

It also closes the "boyfriend loophole" by banning non-married people who are convicted of dating violence or misdemeanor stalking, from possessing firearms.

This Act, however, is still not law. More than five months after the House approved reauthorization of VAWA, the US Senate has yet to even take up the bill.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are leading the fight to close the "boyfriend loophole" (Kevin Dietsch/UP)

Instead, it has gone to Senator Mitch McConnell's "legislative graveyard," where other critical reform bills are buried.

The self-proclaimed "Grim Reaper" of progressive legislation, McConnell has a "A" rating with the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is opposed to closing the "boyfriend loophole," and is actually scoring members on their position on VAWA 2019.

The Violence Against Women Act protects the civil rights and safety of women and victims.


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Kimberly Scott

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Sources:, The United State of Women, USHouse, ColoradoSun, Wiki

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