The severity of crimes associated with domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking was finally addressed by Congress when VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act, was passed in 1994. Within a decade, the legislature expanded the act including protections and provisions, improving action and enforcing efforts to address violence in America. The bill marked the first comprehensive federal legislative package designed to end violence against women.

The passing of the bill was a turning point in history for women’s organizations whose missions were to provide and protect for victims of domestic violence and other crimes. The enactment of VAWA was a landmark legislation sparking national conversation on violence, prevention, and victim services. VAWA includes provisions on rape and battering that focus on prevention, funding for victim services and evidentiary matters. VAWA has been an ongoing interest to Congress since its enactment in 1994. The original act was intended to change attitudes towards domestic violence, foster awareness of domestic violence, improve services and provisions for victims, and revise the way the criminal justice system responds to domestic violence crimes.

VAWA has improved services for victims as well as education and training on violence against women for victim advocates, health professionals, and law enforcement. The original enactment was designed to improve criminal justice responses to domestic violence and increase the availability of services to victims. VAWA has coordinated community response efforts to educate and end domestic violence. Community players include victim advocates, police officers, prosecutors, judges, correction officers, health care professionals, leaders within faith communities, and survivors of violence.

The Act’s funds are administrated by the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), a component of the Department of justice. OVW manages financial and technical assistance to communities around the nation to facilitate the creation of programs, policies and practices aimed at ending domestic violence.

Legislation has created new programs intended to reduce domestic violence and educate professionals on how to respond to incidents. These programs have been established since the continuous re-authorization of the act. The first re-authorization initiated by Congress in 2000, enhanced measures in combating trafficking and providing legal aid for victims. Again in 2005, legislation enhanced penalties for repetitive stalker offenders and established additional protections for battered or trafficked victims as well as developed prevention strategies for women. VAWA 2013 gave Native Americans authority to enforce domestic violence laws and provided tools to colleges to help in educating students on violence against women. 

The timeline below shows the years the bill was reauthorized which has changed the landscape for victims who once suffered in silence. Victims of violence and assault have been granted more access to resources and services over the years.

This month, Lone Star Legal Aid joins Domestic Violence Awareness Month by by sharing the stories of survivors and illustrating the kind of work it does to put an end to domestic violence.

If you or a loved one are experiencing abuse and need assistance, self-help resources are available via www.texaslawhelp.org.  If you or a loved one are in need of an attorney or would like to explore other resources, you can utilize if they are being abused, you can visit the Texas Crime Victim Legal Assistance Network.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.