In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, the first federal law designed to end violence against women. Recognizing the severity of the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, leadership from both sides of the aisle worked together to enact legislation to protect victims of gender-based violence. Since its enactment in 1994, VAWA has provided a majority of the funding for domestic violence service providers and law enforcement working to reduce the harm caused by intimate partner violence and ensure the path to justice is accessible to all survivors.
VAWA requires reauthorization every five years, and each VAWA reauthorization has represented a step forward for young survivors. VAWA 2000 added dating violence as a form of gender-based violence; VAWA 2005 expanded grant programs to address the prevalence of dating and sexual violence with respect to young victims; and VAWA 2013 established comprehensive prevention and education models to respond to dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. VAWA is set to expire on September 30, 2018, and it’s important that Congress reauthorize and strengthen VAWA now!
On Thursday, July 26, 2018, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX 18th District) introduced the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2018, which contains essential improvements to VAWA for young people. Break the Cycle fully supports #VAWA18 and has worked hard as part of the National Taskforce to End Sexual and Domestic Violence to ensure these enhancements were included and that VAWA 2018 prioritizes access to services and justice for young survivors.
The Reauthorization of the of the Violence Against Women Act of 2018 includes vital improvements that reflect the needs of underserved and marginalized survivors --including those on tribal lands-- and that enhance prevention and intervention efforts for youth in communities across the U.S. Specifically, the 2018 bill as introduced in the House of Representatives:
- Provides a definition of technological abuse to encompass sextortion, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, and other forms of cyber abuse and cyber stalking that disproportionately harm young people, the most active users of online social media and messaging.
- Expands the authorized funding level for the Rape Prevention & Education (RPE) Program. The RPE Program provides services, protection, and justice for young survivors of violence. Its expansion would, among other things, address the correlation between bullying and dating abuse; expand training for school-based and campus health centers; direct funds to improve state and local mandatory reporting policies for peer-to-peer violence; and clarify that services targeting youth should incorporate youth in underserved communities and young victims of sex trafficking.
- Improves the Campus Grant program to support institutions of higher education in developing and disseminating comprehensive prevention education for all students.
- Updates the SMART Prevention program under VAWA’s Consolidated Youth grant. The SMART Program is a violence reduction program that: reduces dating violence by providing education, training and skills development to young people; provides healing services to children who have been exposed to violence in their homes; and engages men as leaders and role models in preventing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. The 2018 update would prioritize youth violence prevention and focus on underserved populations and restore the authorized appropriation for this program back to its originally authorized annual level.
- Closes the “boyfriend loophole” by prohibiting persons convicted of dating violence from possessing firearms.
Violence happens in every community, and young people are at heightened risk for experiencing gender-based violence. At Break the Cycle, we recognize the incredible ways young people are changing the world. The Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2018 promotes young people’s right to live safe and healthy lives void of all forms of abuse and empowers young people to build a violence-free world.
But for Representative Jackson Lee’s bill to become law, more Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle will need to support it. This is where YOU come in. Be an activist! Call your representative and urge them to support #VAWA18 and its expansion of prevention and intervention efforts for young survivors. You can find your representative’s name and number here. You can see if they are a cosponsor of #VAWA18 here. Support #VAWA18 and protect and expand the rights of young people!
(Image credit © 2014 Shelly ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ . Licensed under CC-BY.)