Today marks the 19th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). As the original author and champion of VAWA, Vice President Biden brought national attention to what had too-long been a hidden problem. Then-Senator Biden held the first hearing on violence against women in the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1990 and introduced the first version of the Act that same year. After five years of hearings exposing the extent of rape, battering and stalking, the Act finally passed Congress and was signed into law by President Clinton on September 13, 1994.
The initial VAWA legislation focused on changing law enforcement practices, improving the criminal justice system, and increasing access to shelters and services for victims. VAWA strengthened the federal criminal code, creating interstate crimes of domestic violence and doubling penalties for repeat sex offenders. And, VAWA sparked the passage of hundreds of laws at the state level to protect victims and hold offenders accountable. Since 1994, VAWA has sent billions of dollars to states and local communities to develop a coordinated response to domestic violence, dating violence sexual assault, and stalking.