What is the Violence Against Women Act?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
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  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2020
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The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is legislation originally signed into law by United States President Bill Clinton in 1994. VAWA was designed to address incidents such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. The act includes protective laws and the establishment of grants and programs that aim to reduce the occurrence of such crimes in the United States (U.S.) and to address the needs of women who are victims. Since its original enactment, the Violence Against Women Act has been updated and reauthorized when necessary.

Violence against women can have long-term effects on a family. It is also believed that such violence can have a number of wider societal consequences. The Violence Against Women Act is the federal government’s response to the problem.

This legislation aimed to bear evidence that the federal government recognizes that violence against women often involves unique circumstances and presents unique challenges that may not be adequately handled by the justice system without federal intervention. Federal involvement has allowed the interests of women to be served in ways that may not otherwise have been possible. For example, federal law has improved the ability of the criminal justice system to enforce protection orders once hindered by rules of jurisdiction.


The Violence Against Women Act has been updated and gradually improved since its enactment. Major improvements include components of the legislation that specifically address the needs of a wider range of victims than the original version. This includes violence against immigrants and against women with disabilities.

The U.S. Justice Department has an Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). This office is responsible for implementing the Violence Against Women Act. This is done by developing policies and programs that aim to reduce violence against women and address the needs of victims. OVW also awards grants and provides technical assistance to community based efforts whose goals coordinate with VAWA.

More than a dozen grants have been established under the Violence Against Women Act. These are generally focused on specific areas where it is believed that the funds can be beneficial in furthering the aims of the act. The Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies and Enforcement of Protection Orders Program provide funds to governments to motivate them to take violence against women seriously and to help build a coordinated effort. The Grants to Indian Tribal Government Program provides funds that seek to help tribes address violence against women in their communities.


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Post 3

As with most laws, the violence against women act has had some unintended consequences. The law has taken some positive steps toward protecting women, but it has failed women in many ways, too.

One of the most notable consequences of the act has been laws that require police to arrest the instigator when they respond to a domestic violence call. In the past, these situations were largely seen as family matters, but no more.

What ends up happening now is that the man may be arrested and forced to serve a short time in jail, only to be released pending trial. In the mean time, he returns home and seeks revenge on the person he sees as responsible

for his arrest. And of course, the woman is once again left to defend herself.

In other cases, women are being arrested because they are seen as the ones who initiated the physical contact, even though it may be in response to years of abuse, or simply motivated by fear.

Post 2

The Violence Against Women Act of 1994, more than anything, spotlighted how our judicial system has failed to protect women. While we all might like to think we have moved beyond the days when women were treated as second class citizens, the truth is that many women still live in abusive situations where they are far from equal in terms of their ability to live freely and without fear.

Hopefully, this act will continue to encourage women to fight against violence, and hopefully they will see this act as a sign that they are not alone in the fight.

Post 1
I don't understand why we should need an act of Congress to make law enforcement and judges uphold the law. Violence against women should be punished as harshly as violence against anyone and vice versa. I think the need for a violence against women act says a lot about our society, and none of it good.

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