The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a federal law, passed by the Congress as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. VAWA was later reconfirmed in 2000, 2005, 2011, and 2013.
Among other things, the Act created special provisions in the U.S. immigration laws to protect victims of abuse who are not citizens of the U.S. In cases of domestic violence, some victims may obtain legal immigration status without depending on the abuser.
VAWA focuses on nine specific areas of intervention:
• Title I judicial and law enforcement tools to combat violence against women
• Title II improvement of services for victims
• Title III protection for young victims of violence
• Title IV strengthening America’s families by preventing violence
• Title V strengthening the healthcare system’s response
• Title VI housing opportunities and safety for battered women and children
• Title VII providing economic security for victims
• Title VIII protection of battered and trafficked immigrants
• Title IX safety for Indian women.
VAWA made a change in disputes where the police considered such cases as private family matters instead of serious crimes. VAWA improved safety, reduced recidivism and focused attention on the needs of undeserved communities.
Since the Act was passed, more victims are reporting domestic and sexual violence to police. States have reformed their laws to take violence against women more seriously. All states consider stalking as a crime, set up warrantless arrests in misdemeanor domestic violence cases and provide criminal sanctions for the violation of a civil protection order. VAWA provides $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.
The Act also establishes the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, which provides federal leadership in reducing any kind of violence against women. OVW was created in 1995 and provides victims and communities across the country with the protection and services they need. OVW has four formula programs: STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors), SASP (Sexual Assault Services Program), State Coalitions, and Tribal Coalitions. It also has 20 discretionary programs in support to victims.
The Violence Against Women laws provide programs and family lawservices, including strengthening federal penalties for sex offenders, keeping victims safe, and increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing.
VAWA responds to urgent calls for help by establishing the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The Hotline has been the vital link to safety for people affected by domestic violence responding all the time to calls. There are over 5.000 agencies, immigration lawyers, and resources in communities all across the country.