Austin, Texas, USA at the Texas State Capitol.

Become an ally in Advocacy

Don't forget to register to become an Ally in Advocacy.

As an Ally, you will be a leader in our community, advocating for domestic and sexual violence victims, armed with education materials to inform your constituents and fellow representatives of ways to not only recognize victims, but to help them, too.

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victims and the government

There were over 72,000 women, children and men served in Texas family violence centers in 2016 and 19,045 victims of sexual violence.  In 2017, there were 9,798 incidents of domestic violence and 877 incidents of sexual assault reported to law enforcement in Williamson and Travis counties. Unfortunately, the majority of the offenders never spent even one day in jail. Victims have to fight to heal from the violence, and there are several ways the government can help in the healing, including tougher laws and sentencing for offenders.

Government Leaders

As an elected official, or someone who works for an elected official, there are many ways you can positively impact victims of domestic and sexual violence, including lobbying for important changes to substantive criminal and civil codes regarding family or sexual violence or by pushing for funding for organizations that can help victims.

Legislative History on Domestic Violence

Information taken from VOWA-20 Year History Report-Entire report linked at bottom of this page.

History

Emerging out of the social movements of the late 1960s and 1970s, the early feminist movement had women start to speak about their experiences including housework, domestic violence,  workplace inequities and sexual assault.

Yet, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, public officials openly declared that the federal government had no role to play in the issue of domestic violence because it was considered a “private family matter.” Then, members of Congress complained that federal intervention was “anti-family,”  shelters were “indoctrination centers” filled with “missionaries who would war” on the family, and that domestic violence was somehow akin to “spanking” or “nagging.”

Citizens dismissed sexual assault and battering by blaming the
victim saying “She asked for it,” “She wore a short skirt,” “She drank too much.”

The groups against violence didn't go silent.

They kept pushing for victims rights and offender punishments. Through this, President Reagan signed the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) in 1984.

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sad children hugging his mother

The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)

In 1984, Congress passed, and President Reagan signed into law, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). VOCA established the Crime Victims Fund to assist and compensate victims/survivors of crime. The fund is comprised of federal criminal fines, forfeited bonds, forfeiture of profits from criminal activity, additional special assessments and donations by private parties. The Office for Victims of Crime oversees the fund and distributes the money in the form of formula grants to states and territories. The states then use this money to either fund victim services including domestic violence shelters other domestic violence direct service providers and to compensate victims for crime-related losses including medical and counseling costs and lost wages.

 

Violence Against Women's Act-Passed in 1994

In 1994, Congress passed Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, better known as the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA. VAWA was passed not only to stem the tide of ever-increasing violence against women, but also to encourage societal change. VAWA created new programs to help law enforcement fight violence against women (provided grant money for the same purpose), strengthened penalties, and prohibited criminal activities that had not been previously recognized legally. It has been reauthorized three times. Its reauthorizations expanded VAWA to combat sex-trafficking, gave some tribal courts jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators who committed violence against women on tribal lands, authorized money to address the rape-kit processing backlog, established a nondiscrimination requirement for programs receiving VAWA grant money, and created a ‘rape shield’ law. Since the implementation of VAWA, intimate partner violence against women declined 72%!

The woman's face close-up , on my cheek where a tear roll.
CONGRESS

Each time that VAWA has been reauthorized, Congress has expanded the law to reach more people who have experienced violence. In doing so, the political system has continually affirmed VAWA’s core commitment that in our society every victim of intimate partner violence, sexual assault or stalking, no matter who they are or where they are, should have somewhere to turn.

Since it was originally passed and signed into law in 1994, VAWA has been reauthorized three times.

Over that period, VAWA has:

  • Reduced intimate partner violence against men and women
  • Decreased the personal and social cost of gender-based violence
  • Changed the prevailing culture around this violence

Progress Experienced over the past 24 years:

  • Yearly domestic violence rates dropped dramatically by 64% from 1993 to 2010
  • Between 1993 and 2012, the number of individuals killed by an intimate partner declined 26% for women and 48% for men
  • One study showed that VAWA saved an estimated $12.6 billion in net averted social costs in its first 6 years alone
  • In just one state, orders of protection saved $85 million in a single year through quality of life changes and savings in medical, criminal justice and other costs
  • VAWA-funded entities show highly increased rates of prosecution. The evidence collected by VAWA-funded specialized police units is more likely to be useful for prosecution,10 leading to higher rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing.
  • Jurisdictions with specialized domestic violence prosecution programs generally have the highest rates of successful prosecution
  • Comprehensive advocacy, assistance and legal services programs improve the lives of survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Victims who receive comprehensive services and advocacy like those funded by VAWA are more likely to achieve their goals of safety, healing, and economic security than women not receiving such support and services
Young abused woman sitting down with her head buried in knees in a empty room.
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Challenges Still Ahead

  • As long as there remains one victim of this violence, the rates will be too high. This violence is preventable and zero-tolerance must be our aim
  • Bias Still Exists in the System, especially when victims are blamed for the violence 
  • Health and Social costs are still too high for victims
  • Public view of the violence and tend to blame the victims
  •  A shocking number of offenders never receiving a punishment for breaking a law

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