Today, the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) turned nineteen years old. On September 13, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed this piece of critical legislation. Drafted by former Sen. Joe Biden’s office and approved with bipartisan support, it was designed to give better protection and recourse to women experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault.
Annually, 12.7 million men and women in the U.S. are physically abused, raped or stalked by their partners.[i] That is approximately the number of people in New York City and Los Angeles combined.[ii] That is 24 people every minute.[iii] These are people we know.
VAWA provides money to: enhance investigation and prosecution of violent crimes perpetrated against women, increase pre-trial detention of the accused, impose automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allow civil redress in cases where prosecutors elect not to prosecute. Some have described this law as “the greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women in nearly two decades.”
VAWA was reauthorized by Congress in 2000, and again in December 2005. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 5, 2006. This year, VAWA was reauthorized. The latest version of VAWA expanded federal protections to the LGBT community, Native Americans and immigrants.
Since 1994, the annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped 64 percent, according to the White House. But there’s still plenty of work ahead to reduce violence and maintain federal and state funding for anti-violence programs. So as we celebrate another year of this important law, let’s light candles but hold the confetti.
For more information, visit the United States Department of Health and Human Services violence against women website and the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.
Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art
Sources: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Ms. Blog.