The Violence Against Women Act – An Ongoing Fixture in the Nation’s Response to Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking

February 19, 2020

From the time it was first enacted in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has represented a multifaceted approach to strengthening responses at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  In addition to providing federal grant funding to support communities across the country, VAWA and its subsequent reauthorizations have made many improvements to federal law, from stronger criminal laws to housing protections for victims to greater accountability for domestic violence committed on tribal lands, to name just a few. 

It has come to my attention that the regular reauthorizations of appropriations for the VAWA grant programs in 2000, 2005, and 2013, with their accompanying changes in federal law, may have led to a misunderstanding about VAWA as a whole.  VAWA contains no sunset provision and does not expire.  Expiration of the appropriations authorizations in VAWA pertains to the grant programs alone and not to the other legal improvements that have accompanied these authorizations since 1994. 

Furthermore, Congress may continue to appropriate funding for VAWA grants after the authorizations for these grants expire, as it did in December 2019 for fiscal year 2020.  This also has happened during previous reauthorizations of VAWA.  For example, VAWA’s appropriations authorizations were expired from October 2011 through March 2013, but there was no lapse in funding for OVW’s grant programs because Congress continued to appropriate funds for them.

Over the past 25 years, VAWA’s dual purpose of ensuring victim safety and offender accountability has been woven into the fabric of our nation’s efforts to bring an end to these crimes.  At OVW, we continue to work every day to carry out the mandates given to us by VAWA, which remains the law of the land.

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Updated February 19, 2020