Congress has addressed the need to focus on preventing and responding to gender-based violence and improving critical services for victims by Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA).
There has been a long-standing history of civil and criminal complaints against individuals involved with domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Currently, “over 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence, and 1 in 5 women have survived completed or attempted rape. Such violence has a devastating impact on women’s physical and emotional health, financial security, and ability to maintain their jobs.
VAWA recognizes the need to improve the criminal justice response as a matter of public safety. Additionally, it recognizes the need to maintain continuity of established initiatives and address the growing needs for restorative practice programs, with priority to programs that meaningfully address the needs of culturally specific or underserved populations. It aims to improve equity and reduce disparities in access to health care services and prevention resources.
As stated in the bill, it is the hope that this Act will “empower survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking to be free from violence, hardship, and control, which restrains basic human rights to freedom and safety in the United States”.
How VAWA allows Nonprofits to Improve Services for Victims:
Nonprofits are able to provide services to its constituents in a way that the government often is unable, therefore legislators have extended all current VAWA grant programs until 2027 and increased funding for most.
Reauthorizing VAWA’s grant programs will allow organization to provide critical services to survivors within the communities they serve, as well as the appropriate tools and training to ensure that responses to these crimes are both survivor-centered and trauma-informed.
Increasing authorization amounts will help broaden the scope of services to support the underserved populations, including culturally specific communities, LGBTQ survivors, individuals with disabilities, immigrant survivors, older adults, among others.
Victims of sex trafficking come from all communities around the U.S. with an average age of exploitation being 12-15 years. Therefore, the bill notes, “It is the sense of Congress that sex trafficking victims experience sexual violence and assault; and that Federal recognition of their recovery is important.”
VAWA offers Competitive Grants to Organizations that Provide, but are not limited to:
- Training and services to end violence against individuals with disabilities and Deaf people.
- Training and services to end abuse in later life (individuals over 50 years of age).
- Demonstration programs on trauma-informed, victim-centered training for law enforcement.
- Transitional housing assistance for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
- Programs designed to prevent future incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by preventing, reducing and responding to children’s exposure to violence in the home.
- Campus rape prevention and education programming about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, including technological abuse and reproductive and sexual coercion, that is age-appropriate, culturally relevant, ongoing, delivered in multiple venues on campus, accessible, promotes respectful nonviolent behavior as a social norm, and engages men and boys.
Nonprofits should note that priority will be given to grant proposals that meaningfully address the needs of culturally specific or underserved populations which is defined by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as “communities that include members of minority populations or individuals who have experienced health disparities.”
VAWA demonstrates how nonprofit organizations can help prevent gender-based violence by providing the educational, health, and social services to our citizens as well as the victims of of these crimes in which the government cannot fully provide.
“Ending sexual assault in one generation will take these kinds of bold moves – bold moves taken as a community in collaboration and partnership. We all need to work together: victim services, law enforcement, prosecution, courts, health professionals, federal and state governments, campuses, volunteers, bystanders, and survivors to end this terrible crime of violence. Looking out at this room gives me the hope that we can. Let’s keep taking bold steps forward together.” – Honorable Katharine T. Sullivan, former Director, Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice
Bill Woolf, recipient of the Presidential Medal for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons, is the former Special Advisor to the White House for Human Trafficking. He also served as Director of Human Trafficking Programs for the U.S. Department of Justice and acting Director for the Office for Victims of Crime (DOJ).