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0 Introduction to Violence Against Women Act 1994 (VAWA)

In United States, the U.S Congress has passed two main laws related to any act of
violence done against women which are Violence Against Women Act 1994 (VAWA) and the
Family Violence Prevention and Services Act. However, this research will only be focusing
on the VAWA and its content since the legislation in it is more similar to the one that is being
implemented in Malaysia. This implementation of this law has shown how serious the
government of United States is in tackling the issues of domestic violence as well as reducing
the statistics of domestic violence cases in their country. Besides, VAWA has also been
renewed and continuously being checked for its efficiency as well as being amended several
times to ensure that it is safely and effectively meet the needs of domestic violence victims1.
According to National Intimate Partner Sexual Violence Survey of 20102, 1 in 6
women was reported had suffered some kind of sexual violence induced by their intimate
partner during the course of their lives. In the year of 1990s, The Violence Against Women
Act was first drafted and developed and passed as a result of extensive grassroots efforts by
advocates and professionals from the battered women's movement, sexual assault advocates,
victim services field, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors' offices, the courts, and the
private bar3. They were urging the Congress to adopt a significant legislation to address
domestic and sexual violence as a public concern. Since its original passage in 1994, VAWA's
focus has expanded from domestic violence and sexual assault to also include dating violence
and stalking.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was the first major law to help
government agencies and victim advocates work together to fight domestic violence, sexual
assault, and other types of violence against women. It created new punishments for certain
crimes and started programs to prevent violence and help victims. Over the years, the law has
been expanded to provide more programs and services as well as stressing more on the rights
of the victims who got involved in domestic violence cases. This Act has also raise a public
concern in which the government urges the public to have the basic knowledge regarding

1 https://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/laws-on-violenceagainst-women/
2 https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/vawa_factsheet.pdf
3 https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42499.pdf

their rights and ways to escape from abusive partner if they were to engaged in domestic
violence cases.
The law regarding domestic violence in the United States seem to be well covered in
which the protection of the victims are concerned. It must be understood that the usage of the
term women does not mean this law is only subjected to women. It applies to everyone in
the United States that are involved in violence in their everyday lives by their partners no
matter the gender, male or female. To compare the law with the one that exists in the United
States means that their law is up to the par that will give full coverage on what should be
scrutinised in domestic violence especially the part where it gives different kinds of
alternatives to the victims. It is more practical to have thorough detail and explanation as to
what their law offers to their people to aid the victims in this problem.

3.1 Definition of domestic violence according to Violence Against Women Act 1994
Section 6 of the Violence Against Women Act 1994 (VAWA)4 has given its own
definition of domestic violence and defines the context of partner by providing the scope and
clear definition of class of women involved in domestic violence issues. This act was made as
a declaration of policy which says that this act was made to declared that the State values the
dignity of women and children and guarantees full respect for human rights. Next, the State
also recognizes the need to protect the family and its members particularly women and
children, from violence and threats to their personal safety and security.

3.2 General view of victims protection under Violence Against Women Act 1994
Victims of domestic violence in United States are protected under both federal and
state laws, and may seek relief in civil as well as criminal court. The existence of this
Violence Against Women Act 1994 has given the victims of domestic violence cases several
rights in which there were all expressly provided by the act. Domestic violence in U.S can be
handled in three different types of courts which are criminal court, civil court and divorce or
family court5. In criminal court, the state will prosecute the abuser in which the crimes
include the abuse of intimate partner, violation of a protection order, murder, rape, assault,
4 Violence Against Women Act 1994

kidnapping, false imprisonment, property destruction, vandalism, trespassing, stalking,

unlawful possession or concealment of a weapon, intimidating a witness, and many others
that falls under criminal offences. Next, in civil court, victims of domestic violence cases may
address violation of a protection order or sue for money damages where the ground for the
civil lawsuits may include sexual harassment or personal injury. Lastly, in divorce or family
court, this usually happen when the violence done had directly affects divorce proceedings in
which it can be a factor in limiting or prohibiting the abusers rights to child custody or
visitation privileges.
In every domestic violence cases, the fastest form of legal help is to get an Order of
Protection from the nearest court. A Court Order of Protection is an official legal notice,
enforceable in court, that requires the abuser to stop the violence and abuse. In some cases, it
can also act as an injunction that stop the abuser from being in a near proximity to the victim.
Relief available under a Court Order of Protection can be tailored to the victims specific
needs in which the victims can address their main concerns in regards to their abuser. This
Court Order of Protection can also order the abuser to stay away from the victims and can
prevent him from contacting them by phone, mail, e-mail, fax, or through third parties. Next,
it can force the abuser to move out of the matrimonial home and give the victims an exclusive
use of the house regardless the ownership of the house be it by joint ownership or sole
The law regarding domestic violence in the United States seem to be well covered in
which the protection of the victims are concerned. It must be understood that the usage of the
term women does not mean this law is only subjected to women. It applies to everyone in
the United States that are involved in violence in their everyday lives by their partners no
matter the gender, male or female. To compare the law with the one that exists in the United
States means that their law is up to the par that will give full coverage on what should be
scrutinised in domestic violence especially the part where it gives different kinds of
alternatives to the victims. It is more practical to have thorough detail and explanation as to
what their law offers to their people to aid the victims in this problem.


3.3 Structure of Violence Against Women Act 1994 (VAWA)

In Violence Against Women Act 1994 (VAWA), there are separated into a few parts
which are from Subtitle A to Subtitle I. In each of the Subtitle, there are further division into
chapters. This system is good in maintaining the clear order of what they offer. The law is
easier to be read and interpreted by whomever as they are very straightforward. Even though
there are many sub-headings in the statute that normally will confuse people but given that
they are outlined perfectly, it is more systematic as compared to the law in Malaysia. Each
subtitle differs from one another, and at least one chapter in each subtitle will state about the
victims protection. This will hinder any mix up between different laws that may be applied
differently in various situations.
3.3.1 Subtitle A
In Subtitle A, it focuses on safety of the victims in public areas. They are determined
to provide safe streets for everyone. It is divided into five chapters where it encompasses the
sanction provided against the offender and the law provided in public places such as in public
parks etc. It even provides ways that can help to decrease the possibility of abuse. In Chapter
5 under Subtitle A, it provides the aid towards the victims especially for the ones who are
abused sexually. It does not specifically mention to help the victims under domestic violence
only but it is safe to say that when discussing about victims of domestic violence, this law is
also applicable to them. Under Sub-section (a), it is stated that there are training programs
which are available for the victims to help them with their problems. The authority which is
the Attorney General exercised their discretion to become pro-active in this matter to assist
the victims. Their duty is to establish training programs in which they will collaborate with
the personnel that had worked with released sex offenders. Their duty includes aiding in areas
which provide case management, supervision and relapse prevention. Prior to this, the
Attorney General will first consult with the advocates of the victims that are experienced with
sex offenders. This will benefit the victims in which they will indirectly know the
improvement made by the offender. They will also know the condition of the offenders after
they are released. Having the ample information about the offenders will actually make them
more relaxed as it will avoid the feelings of not knowing which will cause them trauma.
There are difference between parole supervision and probate supervision. As
explained above, the court will usually delegate their duties to probation agency or parole

board. Parole supervision is for the offenders who have been released from prison6. This
means that they have served their time in prison and they need to serve the rest of their time
to be supervised by the community in a given period of time. It is not mandatory for them to
be on parole but if they are given their chance to serve in the community, there are rules and
expectations for them to follow. Probate supervision is when the court did not sentence the
offenders to serve time in the prison at all. The court will straight away command them to
serve time in the community. There are also rules for them to abide. The supervision works in
different ways for different people. The period of time they have to be supervised may differ
to the crimes they committed7. It varies from a few months to a lifetime. The personnel will
also look into the probability if the offenders will actually repeat the offence and this is where
the relapse prevention takes place. Their supervision is also not on the same level from one to
another. Just because they are set to be supervised for a long time, they will still be given less
attention if they are not as bad as the criminals who may have the possibility to repeat the
offence once more. The degree of the crime and the possibility of a relapse is a very
important factor to identify which offenders they need to focus more. So, it is clear that they
are not completely free to do what they want as they are always under the scrutiny of the
authority to pose as one responsible civilian towards their country and the most important
thing is for them to not repeat the same mistakes. Every now and then, the board will need to
report about the offenders. Being under the microscope of the authority will help the victims
in which the offenders will always be careful to not commit the offence again. So, it provides
a safe haven for the victims that they will always have the authority that work closer with
them. Even after the period of supervision ends, mechanisms such as monitoring and tracking
by law enforcement officials can still be done by just registering. This means that once the
term of supervision expires, the victims are still protected as they can apply for more
protection in which their offenders will be monitored from time to time.
In Subtitle B, it focuses on safe homes for women. This applies to the domestic
violence victims more since it covers in depth of the welfare of people in their homes namely
the victims for domestic violence. The title being Safe Homes for Women is clear enough to
everyone that the law will provide the protection that they deserve to live a normal and happy
life. The law makers are with the intention to give the best they could for victims that resides
6 http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/ovw-collaboration-v-2.pdf
7 http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/ovw-collaboration-v-2.pdf

in their unsafe homes. This will benefit the people that do not have the chance to even go
outside and seek help physically from other people. This helps in a very big way as there
would be so many victims that are forbidden from leaving the house by their abusers. And by
giving these chances they would have many alternatives to seek for the help they deserve.
Under this Subtitle, there are 11 chapters that mostly consist of short chapters.

For Chapter 1, the law clearly states that there are national hotlines available for the
victims. When these hotlines are written as law that means there is a strict application of
victims protection in the United States. The hotline is provided for the victims to share their
problems with trained advocates. Having skilled listeners are important to make sure they met
with their objectives which to help the victims. Being trained, they are ready with the best
advice and they would know what to do with people who called as to what extent they would
have to seek help. This is beneficial since they are qualified to know the laws and the
authority that those victims should go to. If they just hire volunteers for this job, it would be
harder for them to reach their target to aid the victims since not many people know about the
law in the country. Having this hotline written in the law shows how serious the United States
take upon their obligations in protecting the victims. The experts are going to be there for the
victims for 24 hours every day and their conversation will be confidential just between them8.
They can call not just to report about the offenders but to ask for advice and information
about what they are going through plus whether their relationship are normal or something to
worry about. What is more helpful is that even a third party can call to voice out their
concerns if they know anyone who are experiencing the hardships of domestic violence. Plus,
the abusers may also be the one to find this to be resourceful as they can call the experts if
they feel that their behaviours may be unhealthy to their partners. The experts do not only
have the experience to give advice but they also can be the ones to give legal help about
domestic violence as to what the callers can do.
Under Chapter 4 of this Subtitle, it mentions about shelter grants to help the victims.
However, the explanation is further stated in Family Violence and Prevention and Services
Act under Section 310. The United States government has provided a service for people to
establish domestic violence welfares where they will authorise a prescribed amount of money

8 http://www.thehotline.org/help/

for them to have a head start and this is called the grants9. Even a non-governmental
organisation could award grants to the victims of domestic violence10. This is clear that there
are many alternatives given by the government and non-governmental organisations to give
money to the victims and not just to give it to them blindly but also help them to start their
lives afresh after the hardship that they have gone through.

For Chapter 6 under Subtitle B, it covers about community programs that are held for
domestic violence victims. These community programs will show that not only the
government but the community also care about their wellbeing. Having these community
programs to be written in the law and not just letting the non-governmental organisations to
handle it shows how serious this is. The welfare and well-being of the victims are clearly not
taken lightly by their government. This is to show how much of the victims protection are
covered by the law and those who ignores them of their right might be subjected to the law.
Apart from providing safe shelters to the victims, there are experts that will take care of these
community programs in which they will discuss about the planning of their safety11. The
experts will assist the victims on how to make sure that they are always safe and on how they
will always need the knowledge to safe themselves when they need to. These programs also
include the assistance of giving legal advice to the victims. This is so helpful to the victims
that cannot afford to hire lawyers that can help them. By giving this opportunity, the victims
can seek for help easily. There are also experts offer counselling for survivors and also their
children. Counselling helps to distress a victim and for someone who has been enduring
abuse for some time would affect their mental well-being. Hence it is not a rare occurrence if
the victims suffer from depression. By giving the service of counselling, the survivors will
have someone who finally can listen to them and it is much better since they are experts. It
will give a reassurance for the victims that they are always capable to have a fresh start. Plus,
the help will also cover about housing subsidies that will help the victims to start a new life at
a new place. This is covered under Chapter 11 where it states that these programs will help
those who are homeless to find a place to stay whether it is a temporary or a permanent
9 http://www.ncdsv.org/images/FVPSA_Title-II-Reauthorized-2010-FINALapproved-by-President_12-20-11.pdf
10 http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/19/us/cnnheroes-crawford-domestic-violence/
11 http://www.acf.hhs.gov/fysb/resource/help-fv

housing. It is very beneficial since most of the victims may need a new place to stay and
since most victims are women that have nothing with them, being independent might need
help from the authority. The new address and place where the survivors will continue their
lives would be kept secret especially from the abusers as stated under Chapter 8. With this
provision, the shelters are clearly very safe as they are subjected under the law to refrain
information about the victims that live there.