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Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Violence Against Women Act: Overview, Legislation, and Federal Funding

Lisa N. Sacco
Analyst in Illicit Drugs and Crime Policy

In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA, P.L. 103-322). The act was intended to change attitudes toward domestic violence, foster awareness of domestic violence, improve services and provisions for victims, and revise the manner in which the criminal justice system responds to domestic violence and sex crimes. The legislation created new programs within the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services that aimed to reduce domestic violence and improve response to and recovery from domestic violence incidents. VAWA primarily addresses certain types of violent crime through grant programs to state, tribal, and local governments; nonprofit organizations; and universities. VAWA programs target the crimes of intimate partner violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

In 1995, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) was created administratively within the Department of Justice to administer federal grants authorized under VAWA. In 2002, Congress codified the OVW as a separate office within the Department of Justice (DOJ). Since its creation, the OVW has awarded more than $4.7 billion in grants. While the OVW administers the majority of VAWA authorized grants, other federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Justice Programs, also manage VAWA grants.

Since 1994, VAWA has been modified and reauthorized several times. In 2000, Congress reauthorized the programs under VAWA, enhanced federal domestic violence and stalking penalties, added protections for abused foreign nationals, and created programs for elderly and disabled women. In 2005, Congress again reauthorized VAWA. In addition to reauthorizing the programs under VAWA, the legislation enhanced penalties for repeat stalking offenders; added additional protections for battered and trafficked foreign nationals; and created programs for sexual assault victims and American Indian victims of domestic violence and related crimes; and created programs designed to improve the public health response to domestic violence.

Authorization for appropriations for the programs under VAWA expired in 2011. VAWA programs are currently unauthorized; however, programs have continued to receive appropriations. In the 112
th Congress, bills were passed in each chamber that would have reauthorized most of the programs under VAWA, among other things. Neither bill was enacted into law.

In the 113
th Congress, two bills (H.R. 11 and S. 47) have been introduced that would reauthorize most of the programs under VAWA, among other things; however, only S. 47 has received legislative activity. On February 12, 2013, the Senate passed S. 47 as amended. The Senate amended S. 47 so the bill would amend and authorize appropriations for the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, enhance measures to combat trafficking in persons, and amend VAWA grant purpose areas to include sex trafficking.

On February 22, 2013, the House Committee on Rules issued its Committee Print 113-2 for S. 47—Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, Text of Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute (RCP 113-2). RCP 113-2 differs in substantive ways from S. 47, including with respect to the authority it would give Indian tribes to enforce domestic violence laws and related crimes against non-Indian individuals, and in the populations it would include in its nondiscrimination provision and under its definition of underserved population. A description of S. 47 and the proposed House Committee on Rules substitute (RCP 113-2) is provided in this report.

Date of Report: Febrary 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 43
Order Number: R42499
Price: $29.95

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