Senators Introduce Bipartisan VAWA Reauthorization Bill

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have introduced the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The bill would reauthorize VAWA through 2027. The House passed its VAWA reauthorization bill, HR1620, in 2021.

One level deeper: The original Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), signed in 1994 by then-President Bill Clinton, was a landmark moment in the federal government more aggressively penalizing those convicted of domestic abuse as well as to provide legal protections for those who accuse their partners of intimate violence. VAWA had been reauthorized in 2000, 2005, and 2013.

With this latest iteration, the senators announced they had reached an agreement on the reauthorization of VAWA after months of negotiations. Senator Durbin noted that neither party achieved everything it wanted in the reauthorization, but praised the compromise as a step toward better addressing the needs of domestic abuse survivors.

What you need to know: Both the House and Senate versions of the bill include an expansion of VAWA housing protections to tenants living in housing assisted by the national Housing Trust Fund or the HUD Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, or any other affordable housing program that receives federal funding. The updated statute would also affirm the right of survivors to report to law enforcement or request emergency assistance without facing penalties, fines, evictions, or non-renewal of tenancy.

The bill also requires agencies administering federal housing assistance programs to conduct a compliance review to ensure tenants are not denied assistance on the basis of their status as survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, and to ensure appropriate measures are followed to protect the confidentiality of survivors. These agencies will also be required to report on their compliance with emergency transfer requirements.

The bill also establishes an Office of Gender-Based Violence Prevention at HUD. This office would be headed by a Violence Against Women Act director. The director would be charged with coordinating VAWA implementation between federal agencies and within state and local governments and agencies, as well as with providing agencies and governments with technical assistance and support.