woman holding her hands up afraid

What Is the Violence Against Women Act?

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was a federal law aimed at addressing cases involving domestic violence and abuse toward women. The law expired last year during the 2018-2019 government shutdown. The U.S. House of Representatives took legislative measures to reauthorize the law, but the legislation is currently stuck in the U.S. Senate.

Protections Under the Violence Against Women Act

Throughout its extensive history, the VAWA provided legal protections and created government programs aimed at addressing domestic violence against women.

Among the legal protections and government services established under the VAWA were:

  • National recognition of state court restraining orders
  • The federal rape shield law
  • Federal funding for victim support and assistance services
  • Programs regarding the support of victims with disabilities
  • Legal aid for victims of domestic violence

History of the Violence Against Women Act

Typically, each state is entitled to regulate issues concerning public welfare and morality. This includes criminal offenses, civil torts, and family law matters. However, in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the VAWA, which allocated $1.6 billion in federal funds to further law enforcement and judicial efforts in the prosecution of violent crimes involving women.

The VAWA was developed and supported by many grassroots efforts and causes during the 1980s and 90s, in conjunction with the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, asserting that domestic violence was a public health and human rights concern.

However, despite the intent and goals behind the law, it was not devoid of political controversy and debate. An important voice in the debate surrounding the VAWA stemmed from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) over concern that the increased penalties of the law were too harsh, and that the increase in pretrial detention was unconstitutional.

Over the past 25 years, aspects of the law underwent various changes and revisions. In 2000, the US. Supreme Court struck part of the VAWA as unconstitutional in United States v. Morrison regarding its provisions on civil penalties.

In 2011, the VAWA expired and was introduced in Congress for reauthorization in 2012. At the time, different versions of the bill contained provisions that divided Congress along party lines. The politically controversial provisions involved matters related to protections for LGBT members and limitations for undocumented immigrants.

Last year, the VAWA expired again, and proposed reauthorization was again introduced and passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The fate of the bill is pending a decision by the U.S. Senate.

Turn to Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich for Legal Advice

If you have questions and concerns about your legal rights regarding matters involving domestic violence—whether in criminal or family law case—you should seek the advice of an experienced attorney from Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich.

Please call us at (951) 506-6654 or contact our office online today for more information.


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