This article discusses the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2012.

In late April, the United States Senate voted to renew an embattled federal law, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The House of Representatives followed suit about a month later, passing their own version of a renewed VAWA. The proposed changes offered by Senate Democrats and House Republicans are the first proffered major revisions to the law since its enactment in 1994.

What Is The VAWA?

The VAWA was first passed in 1994 amid concerns that existing state laws did not offer adequate protection to victims of domestic violence, particularly when that violence crossed jurisdictional lines. Another reason for the existence of a federal law was to ensure uniform prosecution of offenders.

Why Does It Matter If The VAWA Changes?

The controversy surrounding the law doesn’t come from its intended purpose – to protect women from domestic abuse – but instead from the way in which partisan lines have been drawn about the scope of the protections offered by it.

For example, a Democrat-sponsored revision would:

  • Extend the law to expressly include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) couples
  • Make more visas available to immigrants being abused in their homeland (or those who came to America illegally but now need to change their immigration status to get out of an abusive relationship)
  • Give Native American authorities the ability to seek additional law enforcement assistance from neighboring federal courts.


Republican-supported legislation would essentially renew the VAWA as it stands now, without offering the additional support sought by Democrats.

Regardless of whether the VAWA is strengthened in 2012 or is renewed as-is, domestic violence charges have much more serious consequences – and prosecutors have many more resources – than they did prior to the enactment of the VAWA. If you are facing allegations of domestic violence, you need to protect your rights and aggressively defend yourself: Consult a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Keywords: Violence Against Women Act, VAWA, domestic violence

Green Ritchie & Bogar, PLLC