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President Biden giving a speech before signing the government funding bill. Photo credit: Patrick Semansky
President Biden giving a speech before signing the government funding bill. Photo credit: Patrick Semansky.

The Violence Against Women Act has been repassed

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for 2022 added new provisions for marginalized groups.

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On Wednesday, March 16, President Joe Biden signed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The reauthorization of the VAWA is part of the $1.5 trillion government funding bill, which had been signed into law the day prior. 

The law was first passed in 1994, making it the first comprehensive federal legislation designed to end violence against women. Then-Senator Biden had a hand in writing the original law. 

When it was first passed, VAWA just covered the protection and support of stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault survivors. The law needs to be renewed every five years. 

It lapsed for four years, however, due to a dispute between Democrats and Republicans about closing the “boyfriend loophole.” This refers to the part of the law that prohibits spouses convicted of domestic violence from purchasing or owning a firearm. Democrats wanted to extend this to all dating partners that had been convicted. Republicans opposed this. Democrats eventually decided to remove this provision to get the law renewed.

During an event for the law’s reauthorization, President Biden said, “It took time to change the culture, and you did it. You did it. The only way we can change the culture was by shining an ugly, bright light on it and speaking its name."

The 2022 version of the law includes expanded protections for marginalized groups. One group in particular that this applies to is Native Americans. The law makes it so that the special criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts now covers “non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands.” 

LGBTQ+ people were first included in the law in 2013, but this version creates the first grant program focused on LGBTQ+ domestic abuse survivors. 

The VAWA also includes a version of Kayden’s Law. This will give family court judges more training and keep children from unsupervised visits with an abusive parent. It was named after Kayden Mancuso, who was killed by her father during a custody battle in 2018

The reauthorization of VAWA is the latest move by the Biden-Harris Administration to prevent gender-based violence and support survivors. This includes increasing funding for sexual assault and domestic violence services, reforming how the military deals with crimes like sexual assault, and directing the Department of Education to address campus sexual assault. 

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