Search Penny Hill Press

Wednesday, May 8, 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 (DOJ) and Health and Human Services (HHS) 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 DOJ to administer federal grants authorized under VAWA. In 2002, Congress codified the OVW as a separate office within 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 (in HHS) and the Office of Justice Programs (in DOJ), also manage VAWA grants.

Since its passage in 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/or 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.

In February 2013, Congress passed legislation (Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013; P.L. 113-4) that reauthorizes most of the programs under VAWA, among other things. The VAWA reauthorization also amends and authorizes appropriations for the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, enhances measures to combat trafficking in persons, and amends VAWA grant purpose areas to include sex trafficking. Moreover, VAWA 2013 gives Indian tribes authority to enforce domestic violence laws and related crimes against non-Indian individuals, and establishes a nondiscrimination provision for VAWA grant programs. The reauthorization also includes new provisions to address the rape kit backlog in states. A description of the reauthorization is provided in this report.

Date of Report: April 24, 2013
Number of Pages: 41
Order Number: R42499
Price: $29.95

To Order:


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.