Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994, and has been the bedrock of the federal government’s response to domestic violence ever since.  The Violence Against Women Act has provided critical funding for programs and initiatives designed to support and help victims of domestic and sexual violence.  These programs have saved lives and helped to reduce domestic violence nationwide.

The Violence Against Women Act has provided much needed assistance to state and local law enforcement and victim service organizations to help prevent domestic violence and support victims of domestic violence.  Senator Leahy has been a longtime defender of VAWA and led the recent multi-year effort to renew and improve this important legislation.  Working together with Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, Senator Leahy sheparded the legislation to passage in the Senate on February 12, 2013, with a strong bipartisan vote of 78 to 22. On February 28, 2013, a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House of Representatives also voted to pass the legislation by a vote of 286 to 138.  President Obama signed the bill into law on March 7, 2013.

The Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 renews VAWA's charter for another five years, and includes new and vital protections for all victims of domestic violence, including college students, immigrant women, tribal women and members of the LGBT community.  The bill increases the focus on sexual assault and will help to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the country and provide needed assistance to law enforcement agencies and victim service providers to better respond to sexual assault crimes.  It will encourage and fund practices that are proven to help law enforcement and victim service providers reduce domestic violence homicides.  It will also help to spread awareness about and prevent human trafficking crimes by reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which had expired in September 2011.

In drafting this new law, Senator Leahy spent years listening to experts in the field and the survivors they serve every day.  This legislation responds to the needs they expressed and in practical and important ways it will make lives better and communities safer.