VAWA Reauthorization – 2018

SAVE recently published a Special Report titled “Domestic Violence Programs May Be Shortchanging Women.” Based on the findings of this report, SAVE has established three objectives for the 2018 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act:

  1. Make VAWA-funded programs victim-centered
  2. End over-criminalization
  3. Strengthen the effectiveness of domestic violence services

1. Victim-Centered

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has identified a broad range of contributors and causes of intimate partner violence. When victims reach out for help, experience reveals they are often seeking programs that focus on:

  • Alcohol treatment
  • Partner counseling
  • Anger management
  • Job training

For incidents involving low-level or mutual abuse, many persons prefer restorative justice approaches. But these options typically are not available within the context of domestic violence programs. For example, partner counseling is prohibited in many states, even if both persons want the counseling and the therapist believes the situation is safe.

2. Over-Criminalization

Over-criminalization refers to the enacting and enforcing of vague or duplicative laws. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 109,300 persons, representing 15.5% of all convicted violent offenders in federal, state, and local correctional facilities had committed a crime against someone in their family:

  • Offense against a wife or husband: 33,100 persons
  • Offense against a daughter or son: 39,500 persons
  • Offense against another family member: 36,800 persons
  1. Mandatory Arrest: Many instances of partner abuse consist of name-calling and marital disagreements. But mandatory arrest policies that ignore “probable cause” are resulting in unnecessary arrests. See Special Report.
  2. Unwanted Prosecutions: In many cases, the abuse victim only wants the situation to be stabilized. But no-drop prosecution policies require the prosecutor to pursue the case. So the victim refuses to cooperate and the case has to be dropped. See Special Report.
  3. Civil Rights: Domestic violence laws are eroding constitutionally rooted civil rights such as due process, probable cause, and the presumption of innocence. See Special Report.

3. Effectiveness

There is a lack of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of VAWA-funded programs. The effectiveness of domestic violence programs is hindered by three factors:

  1. Lack of attention to important research findings: Hundreds of studies show men and Intimate Partner Violencewomen are equally likely to be perpetrators of partner violence (see diagram, right). But existing programs mostly ignore female-initiated and mutual abuse.
  2. False allegations: False accusations of domestic violence have become widespread. The Stop False Allegations of Domestic Violence petition has garnered over 36,000 signatures. Many American citizens have been falsely accused of domestic violence by an immigrant partner.
  3. Waste, fraud, and abuse: The DOJ Office of the Inspector General recently conducted audits of 40 Office of Violence Against Women grantees over a three-year period. The audits revealed $3.6 million in unallowable expenses and $9.4 million in unsupported costs (Appendix). Among the 40 grantees, 29 were classified as “generally non-compliant.