The Violence Against Women Act


The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

The law in about twenty words or less: There’s a lot of violent crime directed at women (often  in their homes); so (as  as a nation) we must do something about it.

More In depth Information:  Signed into law in 1994, as a part of a larger omnibus crime bill, the Violence Against Women Act  (also known as VAWA) was a groundbreaking piece of federal legislation that sought to support and reinforce state and local community responses to sexual assault and intimate violence.

Awareness of a National Problem

During the 1980s, there were two made-for-television films, that  really rocked the nation, in terms of the manner in which they raised  awareness of the severity of the problem of domestic violence. Both films were based on real life accounts of victims of domestic violence. The first one was  “The Burning Bed”  released in October of 1984. This film was based on the true story of Francine Hughes, who, in the film,  was brutally and relentlessly beaten by her husband for years, and was unable to secure any assistance from any community resources (law enforcement, community centers, family). As a result, in order to escape the abuse, she set her husband’s bed on fire and destroyed her home in the process as well. That film was quite an eye-opener, to what was often the end result of a very serious national problem that clearly wasn’t being appropriately death with.

If the Burning Bed wasn’t enough to drive home the severity of the problem, there was the  a 1989 television movie, A Cry for Help: The Tracey Thurman Story. This was another film based on a true story that resulted in  a law suit that was  impetus for  sweeping national reform in the area of domestic violence, as well as in the state of Connecticut.  On June 10, 1983,  Tracey Thurman was viciously attacked, stabbed thirteen-times, in her neck, shoulder and face, and nearly killed by her husband, after contacting law enforcement. In her subsequent 1984 civil lawsuit she alleged that  the local police had ignored growing signs of domestic violence and had casually dismissed restraining orders and other legal bars to keep  her husband away from her.  Thurman prevailed in the suit and was awarded $2.3 million dollars.   She was the first woman in America to sue a town and its police department for violating her civil rights,  and also pointed out a very common and prevalent problem with regard to domestic violence, the non-responsiveness of law enforcement.

Law Enforcement, Courts, Community Service Providers

Thus began a watershed of national dialogue and discussion of the huge problem of domestic and intimate violence in our society. These films, and many others  that followed, shed a light on the difficulties women have in trying to escape violent intimate relationships.

Specifically,  in the area of sexual assault and intimate violence, nationally there were a lot of barriers that prevented, law enforcement, courts and community service providers from adequately addressing the issues. For example, law enforcements’s lack of responsiveness was clearly an issue, but also, there were jurisdiction issues. When victim’s crossed state lines in an effort to escape violence and abuse, when and if perpetrators followed, protection orders issued in one state, became invalid in the other. Shelters and other community resources for victims were severely underfunded.

The Purpose of VAWA

The purpose of VAWA, was to provide sources of federal funding to fill in many of these gaps. and encourage a breakdown of all of the barriers that were getting in the way of victim assistance.  Greater responsiveness of law enforcement was encouraged. Protection orders were to be recognized across state lines. Service providers and communities were to receive access to greater resources.

What does VAWA require schools to do: VAWA requires that schools implement the Campus SaVe Act, which is also summarized in this overview.


American Council on Education. “New Requirements Imposed by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.” (n.d.): n. pag. American Council on Education. American Council on Education, 1 Apr. 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Clery Center For Security On Campus. “The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act.” Clery Center For Security On Campus. Clery Center For Security On Campus, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Gore, Donna. “Landmark Domestic Violence Legislation: Tracey Thurman vs. Torrington, CT Is There a Downside?” Donna R. Gore. Donna R. Gore, 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Grigsby, Susan. “‘The Burning Bed,’ 30 Years Later. And Ray Rice, Now.” Daily Kos. Daily Kos, 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

Legal Momentum. “Violence Against Women Act Overview.” Legal Momentum The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. Legal Momentum, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.

U.S. Department of Justice. “About the Office.” U.S. Department of Justice. U.S. Department of Justice, 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2016.