A GIF Guide to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

In 1993, U.S. Senator Joseph Biden and the majority staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee conclude a three‐year investigation into the causes and effects of violence against women. In his introduction to the report, Senator Biden states, “Through this process, I have become convinced that violence against women reflects as much a failure of our nation’s collective moral imagination as it does the failure of our nation’s laws and  regulations. We are helpless to change the course of this violence unless, and until, we achieve a national consensus that it deserves our profound public outrage.”
President Clinton signs the Violence Against Women Act into law on September 13, 1994. The Act strengthens laws against sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking and provides much-needed funding for prevention, prosecution, and victim services efforts. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.
The VAWA is  reauthorized easily in a bipartisan vote in 2000 under Clinton. 
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The VAWA is again reauthorized easily in a bipartisan vote in 2005 under President Bush.
 In April 2012, the Senate votes to reauthorize the VAWA. 
But the House passes its own measure, omitting provisions of the Senate bill that would protect LGBTQ folks, Native Americans living on reservations, and undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence.
Republicans refuse to compromise on these provisions. Apparently, it’s worth scrapping the whole bill rather than ensuring that these three vulnerable groups are protected.
On January 2, 2013, the Senate’s 2012 reauthorization of VAWA is not brought up for a vote in the House, and the law is allowed to expire after 18 years in effect.
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As I write this, the bill has been reintroduced and will likely pass in the Senate today. But House Republicans are continuing to stall, refusing to budge on the protections for Native American women.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/andejoh/ John

    Can one of you feminists explain something to me? If VAWA is gender nuetral like feminists claim, why was this a problem.

    “Grassley’s legislation differs in several key ways from Leahy’s bill. It would remove the word “women” from VAWA’s largest grant program, effectively broadening the scope of the original 1994 law to include male victims of violence,”


    If women are the majority of DV victims, wouldn’t the majority of the funding go to women anyway? Why would anyone deny male victims of DV access to assistance?

    • http://feministing.com/members/vetxcl/ T.M.

      Can you, John, e-x-p-l-a-i-n why you frame misleading questions? You state:”If VAWA is gender n(eu)tral like feminists claim, why was this a problem(?) ” It is n—o—t gender neutral and no feminist claims it to be. It’s called the ((((violence against w-o-m-e-n act.)))) That’s a major hint about it’s scope right there – not that you bothered to notice. Sen. Grassley is an ole’ buoy RepugnantCon – not known for his progressive attitude in the least. He does n—o—t speak for women.

      You are confused and attempting to confuse others.

  • http://feministing.com/members/cheskamiles/ cheska miles

    Thanks for a fantastic, thought provoking post. It reminded me of a report I read a little while ago on Mamamia. It was about a 16 y/o girl in the US who was raped at a party (the two men and their witnesses also posted images and tweets of the night online), and when the news broke the town community rallied in support of the men. Horrifying, and definitely worth a read: http://www.mamamia.com.au/news/a-horrific-rape-happened-in-steubenville-ohio/

  • http://feministing.com/members/rocinante3d/ rocinante3d

    Rather than relying on government to prevent violence against women, is it not possible for women to rely on themselves to prevent violence.

    One methodology adopted by a woman in Illinois seems rather sensible to me. Ms. Debi Keeney age 55 found her confronted with an intruder who broke into her home. The intruder was trying to choke Ms. Keeney’s sister and demanding money from her.

    She would have been perfectly willing to give him the money if she had any. She did however have a .22 derringer. She fired a warning shot and said she would fire again. She shot him several times with the derringer and he is in the hospital with severe gunshot wounds.

    She kept the weapon there for 15 years. A friend had given it to her and she had taken shooting lessons. It came in handy. Here is the website if you want to look at it.


    Tell me please how the VAWA would have prevented this situation? Tell me please if the miscreant in question would say to himself, “VAWA increases the penalty for attacking women, maybe I shouldn’t attack these women.” Or would he say, “Fuckit, I can pick on these 2 old broads and get away with it.” He is a guy after all and not very complicated. He thinks with his prick and his muscles.

    Why rely on the government when you can prevent violence yourself? Why wait for the government which could care less about you? Buy a gun, train yourself with it obsessively and it will give you more peace of mind than any government legislation possibly can.

    It is my belief that government does not have the answer to protecting us from thieves, people with bad intentions and really batshit crazy people that would harm us. Learn to protect yourself with a gun, knife , a pointed stick even. It should be all about protecting yourself at all times. Why rely on someone else to do that for you?

    As a feminist wouldn’t self reliance and self protection be the highest calling? Do you rely want to rely on a bunch of old really rich men in Washington DC to care about you? If so there is a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you really cheaply.

  • http://feministing.com/members/rosalynleban/ Rosalyn Leban

    Thank you for informing us about this obvious lapse in judgement of the Republican party!

  • http://feministing.com/members/annette/ Annette

    I’m sorry, but this is the worst history of VAWA I have ever seen. Not historically accurate and provides little and leaves out important information. A little politically bias too-

    Oh yea, VAWA is not gender neutral, nor should it be. That is why it is called the VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT. By claiming it is gender neutral we diminish the severity of what is happening to women. Rape and DV does happen to men, but the numbers are still in the upper 90’s that women are the victims’ of these crimes. Until women start raping, killing and beating men in record numbers it will remain so. This is the same bullshit cry white men made about Civil Rights Act. This “gender neutral” is just a way for 1980’s” femimen” to appease the keepers of the status quo.