Updated December 7, 2000

The Violence Against Women Act of 1994

David M. Heger
National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center
University of Missouri - St. Louis
Political Analyst


In 1994, the United States Congress passed the first comprehensive package of legislation aimed at preventing violent acts against women. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), signed into law by President Clinton on September 13, 1994 as Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (commonly referenced as the 1994 Crime Bill), increases criminal penalties and provides grants to address rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse and other gender-related violence. These legislative initiatives were first introduced in 1990 and received final passage four years later in the form of a compromise between proposals authored by former Representative Patricia Schroeder (D-Colorado) and Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware). Criminal statutes provided by the VAWA were permanently incorporated into U.S. Code and can only be amended by an act of Congress. However, money authorized by the Act is temporary; the VAWA provided funding for its programs only through fiscal year 2000 (FY ’00), which ends September 30, 2000. Congress can continue to fund these programs through a new act addressing violence against women or one of the thirteen annual appropriation bills.

Introduction to the Legislation

The 1994 Crime Bill consists of 33 titles, each title pertaining to a separate policy or technical issue, such as public safety and policing (Title I) and prisons (Title II). Many of these sections are organized further into subtitles and chapters. The VAWA is Title IV of the Crime Bill and is separated into seven subtitles: Safe Streets for Women, Safe Homes for Women, Civil Rights for Women, Equal Justice for Women in the Courts Act, Violence Against Women Act Improvements, National Stalker and Domestic Violence Reduction, and Protections for Battered Immigrant Women and Children. These subtitles give some indication as to where specific provisions of the VAWA can be found (i.e. most initiatives pertaining to domestic violence and battered women shelters are found under Safe Homes for Women). The full text of the Crime Bill, including the VAWA, can viewed at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c103:H.R.3355.ENR: A more user-friendly version of the VAWA only can be found on the Web site of the Violence Against Women Office of the Department of Justice (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/vawo/laws/vawa/vawa.htm).



Title IV – Violence Against Women

Subtitle A – Safe Streets for Women

Ch. 1 – Federal Penalties for Sex Crimes

Ch. 2 – Law Enforcement and Prosecution Grants to Reduce Violent

Crimes Against Women

Ch. 3 – Safety for Women in Public Transit and Public Parks

Ch. 4 – New Evidentiary Rules

Ch. 5 – Assistance to Victims of Sexual Assault

Subtitle B – Safe Homes for Women

Ch. 1 – National Domestic Violence Hotline

Ch. 2 – Interstate Enforcement

Ch. 3 – Arrest Policies in Domestic Violence Cases

Ch. 4 – Shelter Grants

Ch. 5 – Youth Education

Ch. 6 – Community Programs on Domestic Violence

Ch. 7 – Family Violence Prevention and Services Act Amendments

Ch. 8 – Confidentiality for Abused Persons

Ch. 9 – Data and Research

Ch. 10 – Rural and Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Enforcement

Subtitle C – Civil Rights for Women

Subtitle D – Equal Justice for Women in the Courts Act

Ch. 1 – Education and Training for Judges and Court Personnel in State Courts

Ch. 2 – Education and Training for Judges and Court Personnel in Federal Courts

Subtitle E – Violence Against Women Act Improvements

Subtitle F – National Stalker and Domestic Violence Reduction

Subtitle G – Protections for Battered Immigrant Women and Children

Grants & Other Monies

The VAWA authorizes $1.6 billion over six years for personnel, training, program development, research, etc. in the effort to combat violence against women. Except for $35 million channeled to the Departments of Interior and Transportation to increase safety in public transit and public parks, VAWA money is administered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). Some of the program funds are pre-authorized for several years (through FY ’00), which means they are not subject to the annual appropriations process in Congress whereby each executive department’s budget is voted upon. However, other programs must be reviewed each year as discretionary spending measures.

Department of Justice Money

  • STOP (Services*Training*Officers*Prosecutors) Grants – Appropriates $800 million over six years for DOJ grants to the states to strengthen law enforcement, prosecution strategies, and victim services related to reducing violence against women. (Subtitle A, Chapter 2)
  • Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies – Provides $120 million in grants over three years, administered by the Attorney General, to encourage state governments to treat domestic violence as a serious violation of criminal law. (Subtitle B, Chapter 3)
  • Rural Domestic Violence and Child Victimization Enforcement Grants – Allows $30 million over three years for DOJ grants to rural states and entities serving rural women and children in efforts to develop a coordinated community response to domestic violence and child abuse. (Subtitle B, Chapter 10)
  • Victims of Child Abuse Programs – Re-authorizes over $50 million for three standing child abuse programs: Court-Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA), Child Abuse Training Programs for Judicial Personnel and Practitioners, and Grants for Televised Testimony. (Subtitle A, Chapter 5)
  • National Stalker and Domestic Violence Reduction Grants – Provides $6 million over three years in grants to states and local government to "improve processes for entering data regarding stalking and domestic violence into local, state, and national crime databases." (Subtitle F)
  • $2 million is appropriated over two years for training programs to assist probation and parole officers who work with released sex offenders. (Subtitle A, Chapter 5)

Department of Health and Human Services Money

  • Grants for Battered Women’s Shelters – As an amendment to the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, appropriates $324 million over five years for battered women’s shelters. (Subtitle B, Chapter 4)
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline – Grants authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services to contract with a private, non-profit organization to establish and administer a national domestic violence hotline. Sets spending at $3 million over six years. (Subtitle B, Chapter 1)
  • Education and Prevention to Reduce Sexual Abuse Among Runaway, Homeless and Street Youth – Allows $30 million over three years for HHS grants to private, non-profit organizations for street-based outreach and education for runaway, homeless, and street youth who have been subjected to or are at risk for sexual abuse. (Subtitle A, Chapter 5)
  • Education and Prevention Grants to Reduce Sexual Assaults Against Women – Under the Preventative Health Block Grant, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provides $205 million over five years for rape prevention and education programs conducted by rape crisis centers or similar entities. (Subtitle A, Chapter 5)
  • Coordinated Community Responses to Prevent Intimate Partner Violence – Appropriates $10 million over two years for the CDC to provide grants to non-profits for projects to coordinate existing community intervention and prevention programs. (Subtitle B, Chapter 6)

Criminal and Other Legal Provisions

The VAWA provides more than just a financial commitment to preventing violence against women: the legislation toughens penalties for offenders and grants aid to victims in the legal system. The Act opens by imposing double prison sentences on repeat sex offenders and mandating restitution of victims’ losses by defendants. (Subtitle A, Chapter 1) Provisions also make it a federal crime for anyone to cross state lines or enter or leave Indian country in violation of a protective order or to intentionally cause bodily harm to his or her partner. Additionally, a protection order issued by one state must be accorded "full faith and credit" by the court of another state. (Subtitle B, Chapter 2) The VAWA makes inadmissible with some exceptions evidence to prove the victim’s "other sexual behavior" or sexual predisposition in a criminal case. (Subtitle A, Chapter 4) By citing the 14th Amendment and Article I of the Constitution, Congress attempted to establish the right of victims of gender-motivated violence to sue their offenders in federal court; however, this provision was struck down in May 2000 by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Morrison. (Subtitle C)

On-line Resources

National Task Force to End Violence Against Women (http://www.vawact.org/)

Senator Joseph Biden – sponsor of the VAWA


Family Research Council – chapter by chapter summary of the VAWA


DOJ – Violence Against Women Office


HHS – Office on Women’s Health


CDC - National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC)


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