COLORADO SPRINGS — The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 has been reauthorized to include provisions aimed to strengthen and modernize existing laws in 2022.

VAWA was created to support comprehensive and cost-effective responses to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Since its enactment in 1994, VAWA programs have dramatically improved federal, tribal, state and local responses to these crimes, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).

The reauthorized law provides survivors, communities and local programs resources for housing, legal assistance, alternatives to criminal responses and prevention programming. Additionally, it strengthens non-discrimination laws and creates an LGBTQ service program through economic justice provisions.

VAWA also restores tribal jurisdiction, which allows tribes to hold non-Native perpetrators accountable. Extension of VAWA purview improves existing housing protections and increases access to emergency and short-term housing. The law also invests in service providers that are culturally and linguistically specific to victims to ensure all individuals are supported.

When VAWA first passed in 1994, it was authored by then Senator Joseph R. Biden. It was the first federal legislation acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes. It provided federal resources to encourage community-coordinated responses to combating violence against women.

Every five years, VAWA is examined for renewal. Each reauthorization has built on existing protections and programs to better meet the needs of survivors.

Here is the history and background of previous VAWA reauthorizations, according to NNEDV:

  • 2000 — The first VAWA reauthorization created a legal assistance program for victims and addressed dating violence and stalking. It reauthorized critical grant programs and subsequent legislation, established new grant programs and strengthened federal law. It reinforced the role of state and territorial domestic violence coalitions in coordinating advocacy an services for survivors.
  • 2005 — VAWA’s reauthorization produced new, holistic responses and programs to meet new needs of survivors and communities. This included resources for prevention, landmark housing protections, funding for rape crisis centers and culturally and linguistically specific services.
  • 2013 — In 2013, the law was changed to enhance access to safety and justice for Native women, immigrants, LGBTQ+ individuals, college students and youth and public housing residents.

President Biden included the VAWA Reauthorization Act for the 2022 fiscal year omnibus spending package in March 2022.

Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Ernst (R-IA), Durbin (D-IL), Murkowski (R-AK), and Representatives Jackson Lee (D-TX), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Nadler (D-NY) were the lead Senate and House sponsors of the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022.