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Violence Against Women Act

VAWA Reauthorization Must Stop Overly Aggressive Policing in Black Communities

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VAWA Reauthorization Must Stop Overly Aggressive Policing in Black Communities

Coalition to End Domestic Violence

April 23, 2021

The “criminalization of social problems has led to mass incarceration of men, especially young men of color” Ms. Foundation for Women[i]

Domestic violence is an important problem in the African-American community. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year Black men are more likely than Black women to be victims of sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking:[ii]

  • 48 million Black men (Table 5.6)
  • 38 million Black women (Table 5.3)

Analyses show programs funded under the Violence Against Women Act have not helped women,[iii] are often ineffective,[iv] rely on biased arrest policies,[v] disregard due process,[vi] and weaken the family.[vii]

These problems are especially pronounced in the African-American community:

  • One study found that protection order statutes were associated with an increase in the number of black women killed by their unmarried partners.[viii]
  • Columbia University law professor Kimberle Crenshaw has noted that many women of color are reluctant to seek intervention from the police, fearing that contact with law enforcement will only worsen the system’s assault on their lives.[ix]
  • According to the FBI, African-Americans – mostly men — are disproportionately affected by mandatory-arrest policies. Blacks represent 23% of all spouses and 35% of all boyfriends or girlfriends arrested for partner aggression.[x]
  • A Harvard University study of mandatory arrest policies found that mandatory arrest laws brought about a 54% increase in intimate partner homicides.[xi]
  • Attorney Aya Gruber wrote, “Day after day, prosecutors proceeded with cases against the wishes of victims, resulting in the mass incarceration of young black men.”[xii]

According to the Congressional Black Caucus, African-American men are incarcerated at more than six times the rate of White men, partly as a result of “overly aggressive policing.”[xiii]  The over-reliance on law enforcement and criminal justice interventions has sent millions of Black men to jail, escalated partner conflict, and broken up families.

The upcoming reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act needs to end this travesty.


[i] Ms. Foundation for Women. Safety and justice for all. New York, 2003, p. 17.


[iii] CEDV. Domestic Violence Programs Are Shortchanging Women. 2021.

[iv] CEDV. How effective are domestic violence programs stopping partner abuse? 2021.

[v] CEDV: Justice denied: Arrest policies for domestic violence. 2021.

[vi] CEDV: Without restraint: The use and abuse of domestic restraining orders. 2021.

[vii] CEDV: How VAWA harms families and children. 2021.

[viii] Dugan L, Nagin D, and Rosenfeld R. Exposure reduction or backlash? The effects of domestic violence resources on intimate partner homicide. NCJ Number 186194, 2001.

[ix] Crenshaw K. Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review Vol. 43, 1991. p. 1257.

[x] Durose MR: Family violence statistics. Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation, June 2005. NCJ 207846. Table 5.9.

[xi] Iyengar R. Does the certainty of arrest reduce domestic violence? Evidence from mandatory and recommended arrest laws. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2007.

[xii] Gruber A. The feminist war on crime. Iowa Law Review Vol. 92, p. 941. 2007.