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Violence Against Women Act Reauthorized for Five Years

On March 7th, 2013, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), reauthorizing the legislation for five more years.[1] VAWA was first passed in 1994 to provide services and protect victims of domestic violence. Toward this goal, VAWA’s multiple provisions include:[2]

  • A federal rape shield law
  • Strengthened penalties for repeat sex offenders
  • Improving law enforcement response to domestic violence through training and dedicated resources
  • Funding for rape crisis centers and hotlines
  • Funding for community violence prevention programs
  • Provisions preventing discrimination against survivors in public housing
  • Legal assistance for survivors of domestic violence[3]

VAWA has been reauthorized three times since 1994.[4][5] The latest reauthorization attempt began last year, but was held up by House Republicans due to their objections to the addition of specific protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) individuals, Native Americans, and immigrants.[6] The new provisions prohibited discrimination against LGBT individuals and closed jurisdictional loopholes that were putting women living on reservations at risk. It also added stalking to the list of crimes that would qualify individuals for a U-Visa, a temporary visa given to victims of serious crimes, allowing them to stay in the country and help prosecute the crime.[7]

The 112th Congress failed to reauthorize VAWA at the end of the 2012 calendar year, but the legislation was quickly taken up at the beginning of the 113th Congress. The Senate passed VAWA, with the new protections, by a vote of 78-22 on February 11, 2013.[8] The House originally attempted to pass a version without the new protections, but ultimately passed the Senate version by a vote of 286-138 on February 28, 2013.[9] The president signed the VAWA extension while surrounded by congressional leaders of the bill as well as Vice President Joe Biden, who first introduced the legislation when he was in the Senate in 1994.[10]

[1]“What’s next for VAWA?” The National Task Force to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Against Women, accessed March 27, 2013,

[2]“Factsheet: The Violence Against Women Act,” The White House, accessed March 27, 2013,

[3]“The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013: Safely and Effectively Meeting the Needs of More Victims,” The National Network to End Domestic Violence, accessed March 27, 2013,

[4][4] “The History of the Violence Against Women Act,” U.S. Department of Justice, accessed April 1, 2012,

[6]Weisman, Jonathan, “Women Figure Anew in Senate’s Latest Battle,” The New York Times, March 14, 2013, accessed March 27, 2013,

[7]“US: Violence Against Women Act Renewed,” Human Rights Watch, February 28, 2013, accessed March 27, 2013,

[8]”Senate votes to reauthorize Violence Against Women Act,” USA Today, February 12, 2013, accessed March 27, 2013,

[9]Sargent, Greg, “VAWA victory shows that House GOP needs Democrats,”  The Washington Post, February 28, 2013, accessed March 27, 2013,

[10]Jarrett, Valerie. “No One Should Have to Live in Fear of Violence,” Huffington Post, March 7, 2013, accessed April 1, 2013,