The policy brief is based on the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The regulation was enacted in 1994 to address sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking cases. VAWA establishes a framework for ensuring domestic violence victims access the needed legal services. There is a need for VAWA to focus more on strengthening the community network by giving more funds to improve social services. The criminal justice system has assisted the victims to find justice. However, it has not effectively deterred violent perpetrators. The proposals build on VAWA’s commitment to enhance the safety of victims and reduce the adverse effects of intimate partner violence. It will empower all persons, including those from remote areas and minority population groups. Directly empowering people through community-centred initiatives provides more opportunities to reduce unfavourable cultural practices, low socioeconomic status and discrimination that have been blamed for propagating domestic violence.
Description of the Problem
VAWA has increasingly committed much of its funding to the criminal legal system over time. Analysis of the VAWA 1994 version reveals that about 60% of the resources were channelled to the criminal response framework, while social services accounted for only 38%. As of 2013, only 15% of the funding benefitted the social services, and the rest for expanding the legal system networks. For instance, VAWA established grant programs to facilitate training of judges and law enforcement agencies and direct provision of legal aid to victims of domestic violence (Sacco, 2019). It requires the victims to partner with law enforcement institutions to access particular funds.
Nonetheless, forcing the victims to collaborate with law enforcement agencies does not guarantee improved victim safety and case outcomes. Increased federal prosecutions have demonstrated little impact on VAWA’s overall objectives. The cases opened, and the perpetrators convicted of crimes related to intimate partner violence have remained fewer since 2000. There is limited data concerning the connection between VAWA-supported training of legal and law enforcement officers and reduced domestic violence. Moreover, some data show that it contributes minimal effect on police practice since the rates of prosecution, arrest and reporting remain low. Consequently, drawing meaningful conclusions regarding regulations enhancing the prosecution or arrest of domestic violence perpetrators is difficult. The current VAWA policy raises questions concerning the effectiveness of increased emphasis on criminalizing intimate partner violence.
Description of the VAWA Policy
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was formulated by Joseph R. Biden when he was a senator and passed in 1994. It was the original federal legislation designed to combat intimate partner violence and coordinate response following the recognition of sexual assault and domestic violence as crimes. VAWA is the basis for more practical domestic violence legislation by influencing other national and local regulations and via individual reauthorization endeavours. Its implementation was motivated by the proceeding state laws and studies and prolonged congressional arguments (Moore & Gover, 2021). VAWA reauthorization occurs every five years, with the aim of strengthening the existing initiatives and protections to react appropriately to the needs of domestic violence survivors. It resolves issues about sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking and dating violence. VAWA coordinates care with victim services, law enforcement agencies, attorneys, and prosecutors—the policy funds different services, such as civil legal assistance through discretionary and formula grant programs. The ultimate draft of the policy incorporated funds for creating a national hotline for reporting domestic violence. Proponents of the bill hoped that VAWA’s tangible actions and symbolic nature would make the general public and government institutions take the issue of domestic violence more seriously.
Presentation and Analysis
Strengths of VAWA
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has successfully supported and created cost-efficient mechanisms for responding to various forms of domestic violence. The Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice have improved the local, tribal, state and federal response to intimate partner violence by administering the VAWA programs since 1994 when it was enacted. For instance, it has issued about $1.6 billion for prosecuting and investigating domestic violence affecting women and introduced mandatory and automatic restitution for persons found committing the crimes (Yates, 2020). VAWA has also increased the penalties imposed on individuals found to have repeated cases of sexual offences and strengthened laws governing criminal rape (Sacco, 2019). The latest recommendations have provisions for reducing online harassment and abuse. In the suggestions, VAWA plans to work with the victim’s assistance providers and law enforcement and give resources and strategies for addressing offences on online platforms, such as the unauthorized sending of intimate images.
Weaknesses of VAWA
The VAWA policy does not effectively empower people to prevent adverse effects of domestic violence. It concentrates more on funding and supporting the criminal justice system compared to the social services. For instance, it provides 85% of its resources to improve the capacity of the legal system to respond effectively to intimate partner violence. Social services receive less funding and do not reach marginalized populations and those from underserved areas. Studies show many domestic violence cases occur among minority groups such as Black African Americans (Cardenas, 2023). Marginalized population groups do not believe in the criminal justice system’s effectiveness in handling their cases. Persons with socioeconomic challenges experience the worst effects of domestic violence. Low-income status makes the process of seeking justice tedious. Scrutiny of VAWA guarantee reports show that young persons, whites and those with disabilities form a significant proportion of their clients. Community-based initiatives are not adequately equipped to economically improve the welfare of the community members. The strategy prevents more people from coming out to report incidences of domestic violence, which can sometimes be fatal. Inadequate funding of the community agencies may fail to adequately address cultural practices directly linked to domestic violence.
The recommendations include modifying VAWA’s operations and resource allocations. It needs to analyze the gaps in reaching out to domestic violence victims, particularly those from marginalized populations and underserved areas. VAWA should allocate more funds to community agencies, to enhance their capacity in improving the welfare and behavior of the people they serve. The recommendations are centred on preventing intimate partner violence through community empowerment. Domestic violence can lead to adverse psychological and physical harm to patients (Palmieri & Valentine, 2021). Community agencies will work closely with families to understand the issues that propagate intimate partner violence in their households, thereby preventing their occurrence. They can also accelerate the justice process by quickly identifying the perpetrators and their motives. The recommendations promote financial autonomy to the community members vulnerable to intimate partner violence, improving their bargaining power and self-esteem. The community agencies will ensure that more people know their rights and avoid retrogressive cultural practices contributing to domestic violence.
The Violence Against Women Act was a noble policy that has made noteworthy successes in supporting domestic violence victims. The criminal justice system is instrumental in assisting the victims get justice. However, it has not yielded desirable results in preventing domestic violence, particularly in remote areas and those affecting marginalized populations. There is a need to change VAWA’s funding approach to focus more on improving the capacity of community-based programs. The proposal will assist VAWA in reducing violent crimes and the need for criminal justice by empowering the community members to attain higher socioeconomic status and avoid unfavourable cultural practices that promote domestic violence.
Cardenas, I. (2023). Advancing intersectionality approaches in intimate partner violence research: A social justice approach. Journal of Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Social Work, 32(1), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1080/15313204.2020.1855494
Moore, A. M., & Gover, A. R. (2021). Violence Against Women: Reflecting on 25 Years of the Violence Against Women Act and Directions for the Future. Violence against women, 27(1), 3–7. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801220949693
Palmieri, J., & Valentine, J. L. (2021). Using trauma-informed care to address sexual assault and intimate partner violence in primary care. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 17(1), 44-48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nurpra.2020.08.028
Sacco, L. N. (2019). The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA): historical overview, funding, and reauthorization (Vol. 42). Congressional Research Service.
Yates, K. D. (2020). Suffering in Silence: Exploring the Violence Against Women Act (Doctoral dissertation, California State University, Northridge).