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Fact Sheet: Violence Against Women Act II

In 1994, Congress passed and the President signed landmark legislation to fight violence against women. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) established new criminal provisions and key grant programs that improve the criminal and civil justice systems' response to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and direct critical services to victims. This comprehensive law sent a clear message across the nation: violence against women is not only wrong, it is a crime. In the past six years, the Violence Against Women Act has protected the safety of countless women and held offenders accountable for their actions.

But there is still much work to be done. Violence still devastates the lives of too many women and children. Nearly one-third of women murdered each year are killed by their intimate partners. Violence by intimates accounts for over 20% of all violent crime against women in America. Women were raped and sexually assaulted 307,000 times in 1998 alone, and approximately one million women are stalked each year.

Congress must act now to pass the Violence Against Women Act II (VAWA II) with the following key measures to sustain and increase our efforts to combat violence against women:

I. Secure and strengthen key VAWA grant programs

In passing VAWA II, Congress should reauthorize and improve the VAWA grant programs to help keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable.

  • Reauthorize VAWA grant programs: In the past six years, more than $1.5 billion in VAWA grant funds have created a national domestic violence hotline and supported the work of prosecutors, law enforcement officials, the courts, victim advocates, health care and social service professionals, and intervention and prevention program staff. Unless Congress extends these programs now, the authorizations for nearly all of VAWA's critical grant programs will expire this year.
  • Ensure that VAWA grant programs cover victims in dating relationships: Today, some jurisdictions may not use VAWA grant funds to target dating violence. New Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data confirm that dating violence is a serious problem: the highest rates of domestic violence are among young persons ages 16 - 24, and more than four in ten incidents of domestic violence involve non-married partners. Our laws must provide these victims with access to services targeting their needs.
  • Direct critical resources toward victims who are traditionally underserved. Some victims, including those who are elderly or disabled, live in rural areas, speak little or no English, or come from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds, face particular difficulties when they seek services. We must ensure that VAWA grant programs reach out to these victims.
  • Support monitoring and stewardship of the shelter program. A set-aside of 1.5% of the battered women's shelter program is essential to extend monitoring and stewardship activities. The additional staff resources and technical assistance capacity are critically needed and will result in enhanced sharing of information and best practices and improved monitoring of federal resources.
  • Set aside 5% of Justice Department grant funds for tribes. A recent BJS study estimated that the rate of violent crime against Native American women is more than twice that committed against women generally. We must direct resources to tribes so that they can provide culturally appropriate assistance to victims in their communities and hold offenders accountable.

  • Provide critical support for key programs. Legislation is needed to continue or strengthen programs targeted at judges and courts, the Domestic Violence Victims' Civil Legal Assistance Program, and the Grants to Combat Violent Crimes Against Women on Campuses.
II. Strengthen federal law enforcement's ability to protect all victims

VAWA and subsequent legislation authorized federal law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute interstate domestic violence, stalking, violations of proction orders, and related firearms violations. Over 250 prosecutions have been brought under these provisions. Now we must close loopholes that hamper our ability to most effectively prosecute these crimes and strengthen these laws to better protect Native American victims and those in dating relationships.

III. Protect immigrant women and children from domestic violence

VAWA included important protections for battered immigrant women that lessened the ability of abusers to use immigration laws to coerce, control, or intimidate them. Unfortunately, new federal laws have inadvertently undermined these provisions. VAWA II would restore these protections.

IV. Enhance the efficacy of protection orders

VAWA requires states and territories to give full faith and credit to protection orders issued by other jurisdictions. VAWA II would eliminate some persisting barriers to enforcement of such orders and would facilitate enforcement of tribal protection orders. In addition, VAWA II would remove a financial obstacle by requiring STOP grant recipients to ensure that victims do not have to pay filing or service costs for protection orders in both civil and criminal cases.

VI. Ensure that children remain in the custody of non-abusive parents

VAWA II contains two measures to reduce the impact of domestic violence on children. First, it helps victims who flee abuse to obtain custody orders without returning to dangerous jurisdictions. Second, it would establish grants for supervised visitation centers. These centers protect victims and their children, and minimize the danger of parental abduction, by providing secure environments for visitation and exchange of children.

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