U.S. House Approves Renewal of Violence Against Women Act

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 28, 2013

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In a vote today that crossed party lines, the House passed the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), both renewing the original law first passed in 1994 and extending protections for Native American, undocumented immigrant and LGBT women. This vote, 286-138, came on the heels of a vote on another version of the bill, put forward by House Republicans and leaving out the extended protections, that was soundly defeated (166-257) as more moderate Republicans crossed the aisle to support the Senate version. With the women vote going 55% for Barack Obama during the last election, moderate Republicans were hoping to avoid a very public fight over this law, which could have further tarnished the party’s reputation amongst women.

Important Provisions of VAWA

The Violence Against Women Act:

  • stiffens federal penalties for repeat offenders; 
  • provides a rape shield law that prevents offenders from using a victims past sexual conduct as evidence during trial; 
  • requires that a victim’s protection order be enforced in all state, tribal and territorial jurisdictions; 
  • provides training for law enforcement, prosecutors and judges with respect to domestic violence issues; 
  • provides for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which receives over 22,000 calls a month; 
  • provides legal relief to battered immigrants who fear deportation should they seek help; and 
  • supports tribal governments by strengthening their ability to prosecute these crimes in their own jurisdictions.

Rates of Violence Decreased Since 1993

According to the White House, VAWA can be credited for significant improvements to the safety of women in the United States since its passage. Between 1993 and 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence has declined 67%. Between 1993 and 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicides decreased 35% for women and 46% for men. Since its passage, the vast majority of states have taken up the cause and passed state laws addressing domestic violence.

The bill now goes to President Obama’s desk and he has indicated he is ready to sign it.

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