Ending Violence Against Women
“The abuse of women is well known in history and tells you a lot about what is happening on our earth.”
– LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Standing Rock Sioux.
There are few subjects more personal and urgent than the issue of violence against women and that is why it is one of NOW’s six core issues. Our unique approach emphasizes the complexity of the issue and its interrelated factors, including domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, violence against abortion clinics, and hate crimes across the lines of gender, sexuality, and race.
NOW recognizes that violence against women is perpetuated through gender bias in the judicial system and systems of economic oppression and that we must address these deeply-seeded structural problems.
One of the most essential tools in advocating for this mission is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), enacted on September 13, 1994. In the years leading up to that historic day, NOW and the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (NOW LDEF) led a long and crucially important campaign to victory. After passage, we led another uphill battle to get initial VAWA funding released. And ever since we’ve brought that same feminist energy and activism to reauthorize and improve VAWA, to make sure that it is serving everyone who has faced violence.
March 2022 finally saw the most recent VAWA reauthorization signed into law by President Joe Biden, the author of the original VAWA. When the U.S. Senate failed to reauthorize VAWA in 2019, NOW members began a pressure campaign that could not be, and we won.
That commitment, and all the work done by allies and activists, has strengthened VAWA to expand protections for women from domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to include additional services for tribal members, transgender, and underserved communities. Now, more funding will go to rape prevention and education efforts, as well as training for law enforcement and the judicial system.
While NOW applauds this VAWA reauthorization, we know that it is only the beginning of our efforts. Congress must follow with a renewed commitment to childcare, healthcare, and other vital investments in our lives and future that help survivors and all families to live and thrive.
And we must make sure that VAWA evolves, even more, to ensure that there are robust and culturally relevant protections for all communities that need them. The Act comes up for renewal every five years, and NOW activists and allies continue to work on building on the existing protections and programs and expanding protections to make sure that all communities are included, particularly Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, undocumented women, and the LGBTQIA+ community. NOW will activate the power of our grassroots and continue advocating until we see these priorities come to fruition once and for all.
Watch the video below to understand why.
“I think there is a socialization that goes where violence becomes acceptable. You have to change that and say, ‘No, that’s not acceptable, rape is not acceptable and neither is any form of violence against women. We must not be ambiguous about violence. The greatest war is fought inside our own hearts, a war of anger and resentment and greed. So we start within ourselves and then with our families and our communities.”
– Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
2022 Reauthorization Highlights
The most recent VAWA reauthorization includes numerous reforms that help advocates to provide services to victims of violence and enhance prevention efforts. The reauthorization:
- Enhances the definition of domestic violence, recognizing verbal, psychological, economic, and technological abuse.
- Defines restorative justice and creates a new community-based program to support training and programs to provide non-carceral accountability for survivors.
- Carries provisions responsive to incarcerated women
- Provides funds for community-specific services for LGBTQIA+ victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.
- Increases funding authorization across underserved populations.
- Mandates a study on barriers to survivors’ economic access.
- Provides tools to ensure adjudicated abusers who are prohibited from possessing firearms do not acquire new ones.
- Expands legal assistance access.
- Expands prevention programs on college campuses, including work with campus health centers.
- Creates a pilot project to allow some Alaska Native Villages to exercise special criminal jurisdiction over certain crimes.
- Enhances implementation, compliance, and enforcement of VAWA’s housing protections.
Below are several resource pages of information about VAWA:
- What is The Violence Against Women Act?
- Why is VAWA Important to Women?
- NOW’s Advocacy for VAWA
- Native American Women and VAWA
The Impact of Title IX on Violence Against Women
NOW was also one of the chief advocates for passage of the Title IX of the Education Act Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination by any educational institution that receives federal funding. This important civil rights law assures that equal opportunity is to be provided for women and men, boys and girls, in both academics and athletics.
Title IX has also been a tool to push back against the insidious threats of sexual harassment and assault on college campuses nationwide. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration adopted a regulation that greatly undermined those protections. NOW and our allies pushed back and working with the Biden-Harris administration and members of Congress to reverse this dangerous precedent.
Title IX is especially crucial for students of color, who face higher rates of sexual harassment and violence. Women in general, and Black women in particular, are blamed, punished, and shamed for filing claims based on racist and sexist discrimination. And the gutting of Title IX threatens to make the situation worse.
What do we do to protect and expand Title IX?
- Read more about our work on Title IX here.
How Can We Take Action on VAWA?
At NOW, we take on tough challenges and never shrink from the difficult challenges ahead of us. We propose constructive solutions to difficult problems, and we build coalitions that mobilize the best talents and most productive energy of our grassroots. And it is because of that grassroots activism we have been at the forefront of so many change-making moments, including the passage of VAWA and its subsequent reauthorizations. We know that our work is far from done. Until every woman is free from violence we will keep marching, keep organizing and keep speaking out to create lasting change. Here’s how you can join us to make a difference.