President Signs Violence Against Women Act

JRSA Forum. March 2013. Volume 31, Number 1.

The was signed into law by President Obama on March 7 after being passed in the House on March 4. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was originally passed into law in 1994 to enhance the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. The bill, which was passed by the Senate in the last Congress but stalled in the House, included several provisions that became controversial during the run-up to the 2012 elections, including an expansion of services for immigrant victims of sexual violence, clarification on eligibility of services and training to victims regardless of sexual preference, and expansion of the authority of tribal courts over non-tribal defendants in limited circumstances.

The bill reintroduced this year in the Senate also includes the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act, or SAFER Act, which authorizes states and local governments to use a certain portion of their Debbie Smith Act funding to conduct one-year audits of the untested sexual assault evidence in their possession. States or local governments choosing to use their Debbie Smith funding for this purpose will be required to report certain information about their backlog in a manner accessible to the public. The Senate approved the current bill in mid-February.