In recognition of the severity of the crimes associated with domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The current reauthorization expires on September 30th and is now up for consideration in Congress.
VAWA has been watershed legislation, marking the first comprehensive federal legislative package designed to end violence against women. VAWA includes provisions on rape and battering that focus on prevention, funding for victim services and evidentiary matters. It includes federal criminal law against battering and a requirement that states honor protection orders issued anywhere in the country. Since the passage of VAWA, there has been a paradigm shift in how the issue of violence against women is addressed.
VAWA and its subsequent reauthorizations have vastly improved services for victims of sexual and domestic violence and stalking, as well as education and training about violence against women for victim advocates, health professionals, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges. VAWA requires a coordinated community response (CCR) to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, encouraging jurisdictions to bring together players from diverse backgrounds to share information and to improve community responses to violence against women. In Door County, these players include victim advocates, police officers, prosecutors, judges, probation and corrections officials, health care professionals, social service workers and survivors of violence against women.
The Violence Against Women Act is critical legislation that helps to empower survivors to stay safe. We hope that our federal elected officials will support quick reauthorization of VAWA including important improvements recommended by our domestic violence partners across the country as these proposed enhancements will save even more lives and help countless survivors access the resource they need to stay safe.
Steve Vickman, Executive Director, HELP of Door County
Sturgeon Bay, Wis.