The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired on September 30, 2018. The House passed VAWA reauthorization legislation in April 2019. In the last few days, Senate negotiations on its chamber’s bill broke down, and Republican Senator Joni Ernst stated her intention to pass legislation without critical restrictions on gun rights for stalkers and dating violence perpetrators.

Rape Crisis Programs and affiliated programs can tell their senators that the Senate must pass one bipartisan bill that contains all of the House Bill protections.

Click here for our full VAWA messaging packet. 


The Violence Against Women Act: History and Current Legislation Timeline


  • U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee completes a three-year investigation into violence against women and produces its resulting report, “The Response to Rape: Detours on the Road to Equal Justice.” Then-Senator Joe Biden crafts responsive legislation that requires a coordinated community response to sexual assault and stalking crimes, enhances penalties for repeat sex offenders, creates immigration protections, and encourages resource sharing to improve systems, among other improvements.


  • Senator Biden introduces the Violence Against Women Act[1] with significant bipartisan co-sponsorship and support.[2]
  • VAWA passes and is signed into law, creating the STOP Grant Program, the Rural Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Assistance Grant Program, the STOP Violence Against Indian Women Discretionary Program, the Grants to Encourage Arrest Policies Program, and funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.


  • Congress Passes the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, reauthorizing existing grant programs and adding funding streams for victim legal assistance, tribal grants, and protections for the elderly and persons with disabilities. This law amends STOP fund regulations to train SANEs, and expands stalking laws to reflect the growth of internet use and cyber bullying.


  • Congress passes the Violence Against Women Act of 2005, reauthorizing existing grant programs and expands programming to address engaging men, serving youth, and training court personnel. VAWA 2005 creates the Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP).


  • Congress passes the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, reauthorizing existing grants and adding protections against discrimination, making VAWA effective until September 30, 2018.


  • Representative Sheila Jackson Lee introduces legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Though 104 Democrats sign on as cosponsors, no Republican lawmakers do so. This bill does not make it through the House.


  • Controversy about gun rights:
    • Representatives Karen Bass (D) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R) introduce H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, which passes the House in April 2019. H.R. 1585 would limit gun rights for persons who engaged in stalking or dating violence.
    • Senate leadership assigns Senators Joni Ernst (R) and Diane Feinstein (D) to negotiate a reauthorization deal in the Senate.
    • In November 2019, Senate discussions break down and Senator Ernst states an intention to introduce an alternate VAWA bill that President Trump supports.  Critics state Ernst has “caved to [NRA demands].”

[1] VAWA was passed as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

[2] Specifically, the 1994 bill boasted 226 sponsors in the House and 68 in the Senate. Legal Momentum, History of VAWA, The Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund,

Action Steps for Rape Crisis Centers and Affiliated Programs in Ohio

Senators Portman and Brown have offices in Washington, D.C., and multiple municipalities in Ohio. They generally have staff members, called legislative aides, specifically assigned to work on issues impacting victims of sexual violence. Most of these aides are based in D.C., but are available to speak over the phone. Local staff are generally interested in local perspectives on issues impacting their lawmaker’s district, and are thus generally willing to meet with constituent programs.

OAESV advises the following short- and long-term actions to encourage a unified Senate bill:

  • Short-Term:
    • Call and/or email Senators Portman and Brown’s offices to share the message.
  • Long-Term:
    • Schedule in-person meetings with Senators Portman and Brown’s in-district staff members.
    • Schedule tours for the Senators’ staff members at your organization to discuss the law and how critical it is to the safety and healing of the people you serve.
      • For more information on setting up meetings and tours, please reach out to OAESV is happy to connect you with the specific staff members from the Senators’ offices for each avenue.