President Barack Obama signed the present version of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act into law on March 7, 2013. The present bill is an upgrade to the original Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that was signed in 1994.
The original 1994 version of VAWA was signed by President Bill Clinton and committed $1.6 billion to investigate crimes of violence perpetrated against women. The law makes it both mandatory and automatic that restitution is imposed against individuals convicted under VAWA. This comprehensive legislature was previously reauthorized in both 2000 and 2005.
The unfortunate facts are that one in three women have suffered serious violence at the hands of an intimate partner. The numbers are even higher for women who have been victims of sexual assault, stalking, or some type of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. To put an exclamation point on the topic, more than 1,000 women were killed by their past or present husband or boyfriend in 2010.
These stats and the many others are available to make it clear why the need for legislation like VAWA is needed.
The VAWA Purpose
The United States Congress participated in years of drafts and amendments before informing the public of the Law Enforcement and Prosecution Grants that would be made available to states. Provisions for the grants were made under the second chapter of the Safe Streets Act.
The grants are used to support efforts by states, governments of indigenous tribes, local government units to better protect women against violence through the use of law enforcement strategies and prosecutions. The grants are also used to strengthen the available services for women who have been victims of violent crimes. The Office for Violence Against Women was also created to oversee how the grant money is used.
The grant program created by Congress has been a major component to the objective of providing support to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault. VAWA grant money is processed through the Office for Violence Against Women and common uses of the grant money include:
- Training for prosecutors and law enforcement personnel
- The training, development, and expansion of specialized units of law enforcement that deal with victims of sexual and other abuses.
- Developing more effective policies and protocols to be used by prosecutors and law enforcement personnel.
- Development and expansion of services used to benefit victims of sexual and other abuses
- Development and expansion of systems that facilitate better communication and data collection
- Developing programs that offer education and preventative methods against domestic abuse and stalking
A number of notable grant programs have been developed in the two decades of VAWA existence. A handful of these grants include:
- SASP – Sexual Assault Services Program
- GTEAP – Grants to Encourage Arrest Program
- LAV – Civil Legal Assistance for Victims
- Services for Regional Victims
- Prevention and Youth Programs
- Tribal and Under served Programs
- Grants to Combat Violence Against Women
In its 20 year existence, VAWA has saved state government billions of dollars in money for social services to support victims of domestic violence. The bill has also resulted in a better-trained police force that possesses the expertise to deal with cases involving domestic or sexual abuse.
Programs That Benefit Victims of Domestic Violence
In addition to the numerous grant programs that have been started by VAWA, The bill has resulted in a number of services and program initiatives for the benefit of domestic violence victims. These initiatives include:
- Programs to prevent community violence
- Funding for services that assist victims in emergency situations
- Protection for victims who lose their home or place to stay due to domestic violence
- Federal rape shield protections
- Services and programs for the benefit of Americans with disabilities
- Initiatives for women who are immigrants or from diverse ethnic backgrounds
- Legal aid for victims of domestic violence
The intent of these programs is to provide individuals whose lives have been affected by domestic abuse the resources and legal assistance needed to make themselves whole again.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you or someone close to you have been affected by domestic violence, you should talk to an attorney that possesses the knowledge and compassion needed to steer you in the direction of the support programs and initiatives that are available to you.