For many victims of domestic abuse, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been a resounding success, and a lifeline. Since then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) wrote the legislation in 1994, the country’s infrastructure for dealing with rape and abuse has vastly improved, saving countless women’s lives and livelihoods.
As the country celebrates the 18th anniversary of the legislation, here are some of the victories achieved through VAWA:
- Victims can call for help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline was established as part of VAWA. It currently serves over 22,000 victims a month and has taken a total of 3 million calls.
- Law enforcement officers are trained to help victims. 500,000 law enforcement officials, judges, and prosecutors a year are trained with VAWA funding to help domestic abuse victims.
- Partner violence and homicides fell. From the year before VAWA’s passage until 2008, the number of women being killed by partners dropped 43 percent, and partner violence against women fell 53 percent.
- Stalking became illegal. Before VAWA, stalking was not a federal crime. The law established stalking as a felony offense.
- Rape is rape, no exceptions. Since the passage of VAWA, each state in the United States has updated its laws so that rape by a partner is treated equally to rape by a stranger.
But the outlook for VAWA is not quite as positive as its retrospective. A reauthorization of the law is currently embroiled in a partisan fight between Republicans and Democrats. Different versions of the bill have passed the House and Senate, but the two chambers appear unable to come to consensus on a final bill — in large part because Republicans will not accept expansions to the program that would aide Native Americans, LGBT victims, and undocumented immigrants.