Violence against Women


America’s broken legal system, combined with cultural beliefs about family, pressures women to stay in violent, dangerous marriages.

GWC Violence Against Women - #1 Priority:  Reauthorization Of The Violence Against Women Act  

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a U.S. federal law, signed by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994.  It was authored by then-Senator Joe Biden (DE), and co-authored by Representative Louise Slaughter (NY).  It was passed in Congress (234/195 House, 61/38 Senate).

The law established a budget (initially $1.6 billion) to:

  • Investigate violence against women crimes
  • Prosecute perpetrators of such crimes
  • Impose requirements for restitution to victims by perpetrators
  • Provide reparations, if prosecutors opt not to prosecute a crime

Extensions of the Law were passed in 2000, 2005 and 2013.  In each case, there were changes which met with varying degrees of opposition, generally from Republicans and organizations such as the NRA and other conservative groups.  

Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is on President Biden’s 100-day agenda.  Once it has been introduced, the Violence Against Women Action Team is poised to focus on efforts in support of reauthorization.  We hope to see massive support from throughout the DA membership to help ensure this important legislative cornerstone is passed.

Key Issues/Changes in 2005

The 2005 re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act redefined the term “under-served populations” to include individuals isolated because of their geographic location, racial and ethnic origins, disability, advanced age, and any other population deemed by the Attorney General or the Secretary of Health and Social Services to present significantly higher risk.

The 2005 reauthorization also modifies the Omnibus amendment from 1968 on crime prevention and street safety. This is to prohibit officials from requiring victims of sexual assault to undergo a polygraph examination as a precondition for an investigation or prosecution.

Key Issues in 2012

  • Extending provisions of text to same-sex couples.
  • Granting temporary visas for immigrant women who are victims of violence, and who arrived illegally in the U.S.

Another area of ​​contention is the provision in the law giving Native American tribal authorities jurisdiction over sex crimes involving non-Native Americans on tribal lands. This provision is considered unconstitutional by Republicans, since a non-Native American is actually under the jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, and enjoys the protections of the U.S. Constitution, protections that tribal courts do not necessarily enforce.

The renewed law extended federal protections to homosexuals, lesbians, transgender people, Native Americans, and immigrants.

What Happened In 2019

Violence Against Women Act reauthorization threatened. 

Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized.   

Positive Outcomes

VAWA provided the impetus and provided resources which enabled the building of a coordinated community response to domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual assault and harassment.  The courts, agencies of law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services, and private lawyers began together in unprecedented, coordinated efforts.

New laws against violence against women offer programs and services, including:

  • Federal Rape Shield Law
  • Community violence prevention programs
  • Protections for victims evicted from their homes due to events related to domestic violence or criminal harassment
  • Funding of victim support services, such as rape crisis centers and hotlines
  • Programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races or ethnicities
  • Programs and services for victims with disabilities
  • Legal aid for victims of domestic violence

The following grant programs are primarily administered by the Office on Violence Against Women, United States Department of Justice, and have received funding from Congress: STOP Grants, Transitional Housing Grants, Grants to Encourage Arrest and Enforce Protection Orders, Civil Legal Assistance for Victims, Court Training and Improvement Grants, Engaging Men and Youth in Prevention, Research on Violence Against Native American Women, Safe Havens Project, National Tribal Sex Offender Registry, Stalker Reduction Database, Federal Victim Assistants, Sexual Assault Services Program, Violence on College Campuses Grants, Services for Rural Victims, Civil Legal Assistance for Victims, Elder Abuse Grant Program, Protections and Services for Disabled Victims, Combating Abuse in Public Housing, National Resource Center on Workplace Responses.

Official federal government groups created by President Barack Obama in connection with the Violence Against Women Act, include the White House Council on Women and Girls, and the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The goals of its two entities are to help improve and protect the well-being and safety of women and girls in the United States.

Coverage of Male Victims

Although the title of the law and the titles of its sections refer to victims of domestic violence as women, the text of the operative part is gender neutral and also covers male victims.  However, individual organizations have failed to use the Violence Against Women Act to provide equal coverage for men. The law has been amended twice, in an attempt to remedy this situation. The 2005 reauthorization adds a non-exclusivity provision specifying that the title should not be interpreted as prohibiting male victims  receiving services under the Bill. The 2013 reauthorization adds a provision of non-discrimination, which prohibits organizations receiving funding under the law to discriminate on the basis of sex.  Jan Brown, Founder and Executive Director of Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women -- the domestic violence helpline for men and women -- argues that the law may not be enough to ensure equal access to services. On September 12, 2013, during an event marking the 19th anniversary of the bill, Vice President Joe Biden criticized Republicans, who slowed down the passage of the act's reauthorization as "that kind of Neanderthal crowd."


Startling statistics:

  • Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 2 minutes.
  • National surveys of adults suggest that between 9-32% of women, and 5-10% of men report that they were victims of sexual abuse and/or assault during their childhood.
  • 22% of victims were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32% were between the ages of 12 and 17.
  • The majority of male and female rape victims knew their perpetrator.
  • Of surveyed college women, about 90% of rape and sexual assault victims knew their attacker prior to the assault.
  • 43% of lesbian and bisexual women, and 30% of gay and bisexual men, reported having experienced at least one form of sexual assault victimization during their lifetimes.
  • 34% of Native American and Alaskan Native women reported experiencing an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime, compared with 19% of African American women, 18% of white women, and 7% of Asian American women.
  • Among adults who are developmentally disabled, as many as 83% of the females and 32% of the males are the victims of sexual assault.
  • Women with disabilities are raped and abused at a rate at least twice that of the general population of women.
  • A 2007 study found that 5% (or 60,500) of the more than 1.3 million inmates held in federal and state prisons had been sexually abused in the previous year alone.

Source - WCSAP and Wikipedia and RAINN


It is estimated that between 15,000 to 50,000 women and children are forced into sexual slavery in the United States every year, and the total number varies wildly as it is very difficult to research. One study from the Department of Health and Human Services, estimated the number at between 240,000 and 325,000, while a report from the University of Pennsylvania put it at between 100,000 and 300,000. Source: The Deliver Fund