This February, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reauthorized.
It expanded and now encompasses gay, lesbian, transgender and Native American victims of domestic violence as well as requiring colleges and universities to record on-campus sexual abuse data.
“All women deserve to live free from fear,” President Obama stated at the signing ceremony. The bill, which was passed by the Senate on Feb. 11, 2013, is nearly 20 years old. Its main purpose is to improve and increase the criminal justice response to domestic abuse.
Drafted by (then Senator) Joe Biden in 1994 and passed by President Bill Clinton, the Act established a national domestic abuse hotline, officially recognized rape crisis centers, and domestic abuse shelters and defining domestic abuse crimes. The hotline receives more than 20,000 calls per month.
Domestic abuse crimes include dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault. Men are also included under VAWA.
Other aspects of VAWA include the creation of the Office on Violence Against Women and the Rape Shield Law. This law prevents victim’s past sexual behavior from being used against them during trials as well as prohibits the publication of a rape victim’s identity.
In 2000 and 2005, VAWA expanded the definitions of domestic abuse and included more protection for immigrants. Legal assistance programs were created for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Children and teenagers were now included in the law, as well as federal funding for rape crisis centers.
In this years renewal of VAWA, Native American women will be further included in the scope of the law. Tribal courts will now be granted more rights to handle domestic abuse cases. Lesbian, gay and transgender victims will also share more rights as many barriers against them will be lifted.
“Campuses will have more tools to educate students about sexual violence,” said Vice President Joe Biden at the signing ceremony of the bill.
The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE) will now require victims to be provided with their rights in writing. Campuses will also be required to record sexual assault, dating violence, and similar abuse data, and include it in annual campus crime reports.
Awareness programs will be available to incoming students and employees.
Full remarks by the President and Vice President during the signing of VAWA can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office.
More information on the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act can be found at http://www.securityoncampus.org/campus-sexual-violence-elimination-save-act.