Friday — March 18, 2022

The Violence Against Women Act - The History and Reauthorization

by: Cesar J Segura

March of 2022 has seen a huge win for Women’s rights and for victims of crime. As part of the 2022 Omnibus Spending Package, the United States Government has voted and signed legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) through 2027. Originally, VAWA was passed in 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 in response to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (Legal Momentum). The original bill was a landmark legislation being the first of its kind to include specific provisions toward ending domestic violence. The original bill outlined automatic and mandatory restitution on convicted perpetrators, created the Elder Abuse Grant Program, and expanded serviced for victims in rural areas. Throughout its history, VAWA has outlined preventative measures for sexual assault and domestic violence while also setting aside funding for various victim service programs across the country.

Since its initial inception in 1994, VAWA has been reauthorized many times with every reauthorization providing additional provisions for the victims it supports. New reauthorizations of VAWA provide additional abilities for the application and granting of restraining orders for victims as well as additional access to services specific to tribal and native communities.

The latest reauthorization of VAWA was signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 16, 2022. The 2021 reauthorization expands on previous versions to include:

  • An expansion of criminal jurisdiction of tribal courts that will now include non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands
  • Updating the SMART Prevention Program and the CHOOSE Youth Program to reduce dating violence
  • Improving the healthcare system’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault, including through enhanced training for sexual assault forensic examiners.
  • Reauthorizing all current VAWA grant programs until 2027 and, in many cases, increasing authorization levels.
  • Money was also allocated annually for tribal use of various federal criminal record keeping databases
  • Additional requirements also require improvements in reporting of MMIW within the country

Through the various programs that have been developed since its 1994 inception, VAWA has seen much improvement in the resources and societal attitude toward women who have been victimized. The 2022 version of the Violence Against Women Act is a great step in the right direction for services related to victims of crime.