VAWA 2022: The Recent Re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act 

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. Celebrating its 28th anniversary this year, VAWA created protections and established important programs, funding, and resources for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. (In this article, we will collectively refer to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking as intimate partner violence.)

In 1990, then-senator Joe Biden, who helped write and advocate for VAWA, stated that VAWA had “three broad, but simple goals: to make streets safer for women; to make homes safer for women; and to protect women’s civil rights.”

Stemming from decades of research on violence against women, the Act was passed as a response to courts’ shifting views that instances of domestic violence were not, in fact, private family matters—but criminal ones.

What Is VAWA?

VAWA was passed under the broader Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and created legislation to protect women from intimate partner violence. The Act outlines how different stakeholders in a community—including law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services, healthcare providers, and more—should work together to prevent and address instances of intimate partner violence.

VAWA was the first major legislation to pass that improved legal responses to and heightened awareness of domestic and sexual violence against women. It also created the first federal criminal law against battering. VAWA aimed to tackle violence against women in three ways:

  • To prevent instances of intimate partner violence
  • To increase investigation and prosecution of intimate partner violence
  • To provide better support for victims of intimate partner violence

The first version of VAWA included legislation for mandatory arrest. This means that when law enforcement is called to the scene of an incident involving intimate partner violence, they must arrest one of the involved parties if they believe they have probable cause.

Among other things, VAWA established the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) within the Department of Justice. VAWA also improved education and training programs on gender-based violence for health professionals, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges, and victim advocates.

Additionally, VAWA includes a grant program to provide funding to states, local governments, and tribal governments to combat intimate partner violence incidents with better resources for investigation and prosecution. Nonprofits and universities can also apply for VAWA grants to help prevent, address, and research intimate partner violence, as well as provide support services to victims.

Reauthorization of VAWA in 2022

VAWA has been reauthorized four times since 1994: once in 2000, once in 2005, once in 2013, and most recently in March of 2022. Each time VAWA has been reauthorized, lawmakers have expanded, updated, and improved its provisions. This year’s reauthorization of VAWA provides for the funding of all existing grant programs through 2027.

In 2022, a number of strengthened provisions have been included, especially for underserved and marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ survivors and Indigenous communities.

Prior to this reauthorization, Tribal courts could do little against non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other criminal activities outlined by VAWA, even if the crimes were committed on Tribal land. Groundbreakingly, this iteration of VAWA expands the criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts to prosecute non-Native perpetrators.

Protections against cybercrimes have also been expanded to include victims of intimate image distribution. Under this protection, victims whose intimate visual images have been shared without their consent can sue those who have distributed the images to recover damages and legal fees.

Training for law enforcement members, healthcare professionals, and sexual assault forensic examiners will be improved under this reauthorization as well. Training programs will be revamped to provide training that is trauma-informed and victim-centered.

For a complete list of improvements under this VAWA reauthorization, you can review the VAWA fact sheet distributed by the White House on March 16th, 2022.

Impacts of VAWA

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, rates of intimate partner violence against both males and females declined by over 50% between 1993 and 2008. The rate of intimate partner homicides also decreased for both men and women.

Additionally, the University of Kentucky found that as a result of mandatory arrest, reporting of intimate partner violence increased by 51%. Still, there is some debate about the effectiveness of mandatory arrest. Some women may be less inclined to report incidents of intimate partner violence due to fear for their partner or fear of repercussions to themselves when their partner returns home.

Celebrate the Reauthorization of VAWA with Safe Shelter

At Safe Shelter, we recognize the huge impacts VAWA has had on communities’ responses to domestic violence. Although no legislation is perfect, we know that VAWA provides critical resources, support, and protection to all victims of domestic violence, and we are excited to celebrate the most recent reauthorization and improvements to VAWA.

We are here to serve you or your loved ones who are experiencing domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time.

Volunteer Training

Child Abuse and Mandatory Reporting – Blue Sky Bridge

Teen Dating Violence Program –  Teen Advocate, Safe Shelter of St Vrain Valley

Contact David at david@safeshelterofstvrain.org to sign up and for more information

Why Domestic Violence Affects Women at Higher Rates Than Men

Domestic violence can happen to individuals of any race, any socioeconomic status, any education level, and of course, any gender. But there’s no denying that domestic violence rates against women are higher than they are for men. Additionally, women are also more likely to be seriously hurt or killed as a result of intimate partner violence than men.

(Trans and nonbinary folks also experience higher rates of intimate partner violence, but unfortunately, there is less data for these communities and more research needs to be conducted.)

So why are women more likely to experience domestic violence—and more severe incidents of violence—than men?

It’s not because women are inherently more submissive or that men are simply stronger and more violent than women. Instead, it’s because women face greater societal inequities that perpetuate domestic violence against women and support systems that prevent women from getting help or making a change.

Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes play a huge role in the perpetuation of domestic violence against women. Stereotypes arise as a result of cultural or societal values and, unfortunately, are an inherent part of any community.

Left unexamined, stereotypes lead to prejudice, discrimination, and systemic inequities that are layered into every aspect of society, such as access to job opportunities, housing, equal pay, access to education, and more. While progress can be made to equalize opportunities, the persistence of stereotypes will always result in more barriers and deeper levels of inequality.

Examples of Gender Stereotypes

One stereotype attributed to women in many cultures is that women are more submissive than men, especially in the context of marriage and family. This stereotype fosters the belief that women should obey their husbands and other male family members—not to mention male coworkers, bosses, and other authority figures. If they don’t obey or comply, this belief promotes the idea that women should be punished.

Additionally, men are stereotyped to be aggressive, powerful, and dominant in their relationships. This stereotype makes it more likely that men (and women!) automatically believe men have the right to make decisions for women, control their behaviors, and normalize violence against them.

It’s important to understand that stereotypes are general. Of course, we can all think of many men and women in our lives who do not fit these stereotypes. But not every person has to conform to stereotypes for the stereotype to be meaningfully baked into society. And unfortunately, there are real consequences for those affected.

The Persistence of the Wage Gap

As a result of centuries-old stereotypes, the wage gap between men and women persists into the 21st century, despite decades of progress toward more equality in the workplace. As of 2020, working women still only earned $0.84 for every dollar that men earned. For women of color, the wage gap is even larger.

Earning less has several implications for victims of domestic violence. For instance, a woman who earns less than her partner may have less bargaining power in the home, since she doesn’t contribute as much money to the household. Additionally, a woman who earns less than her partner and relies on his income will be less likely to be able to—or want to—leave an abusive relationship.

Care-taking Responsibilities

Women are disproportionately responsible for care-giving duties than their male partners. They are more likely to leave their jobs (temporarily or permanently) to care for children, elderly family members, and disabled loved ones. The pandemic only exacerbated this inequity as schools and childcare centers all over the country were forced to shut down.

Even if a woman leaves her career temporarily to provide care for her family, she may experience permanent consequences. Women who leave the workforce are more likely to earn lower wages when they return to work and have fewer opportunities to be promoted in the future.

Expectations of care-taking responsibilities also play a role in higher rates of violence against women. By leaving the workforce to care for children or other loved ones, she sacrifices her ability to remain independent—both financially and socially. Without her own earnings, a woman may be more likely to be dependent on her partner and less likely to leave an abusive relationship.

Poverty Rates

Systemic inequalities mean that women are more likely to live in poverty than men. In 2018, 12.9% of women lived in poverty compared to 10.6% of men. The fact that more women live in poverty means that more women may have to make the decision to enter into or stay in abusive relationships.

Historically, one-quarter to more than one-half of women experiencing homelessness cite domestic violence as the reason they were homeless. Clearly, the stakes of leaving an abusive relationship are high for women.

Get Help and Support at Safe Shelter

At Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley, we recognize that while people of all genders can experience domestic violence, women, trans, and nonbinary folks are more likely to experience more frequent and severe instances of violence than men. Unfortunately, societal and systemic pressures make it more likely that women will be abused. These same pressures make it more difficult for women to escape abusive relationships.

We are here to serve you or your loved ones who are experiencing domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help, do not hesitate to get in contact with us. You can call our office during business hours at 303-772-0432, our 24-hour crisis line at 303-772-4422, or click here to fill out our online question form at any time.

Volunteer Training

Working with Victims With Disabilities

Engaging Men in the Movement – TBD

DV and Marginalized Communities – Bilingual Advocate & Counselor, Safe Shelter of St Vrain Valley

Contact David at david@safeshelterofstvrain.org to sign up and for more information