Violence against women can be physical such as punching, slapping, kicking, pushing, and hitting. But, it can also manifest as verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse.
This abuse can lead to physical injuries, as well as, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, and in some cases even death.
Battered women can feel trapped and afraid, and their lives are often restricted. Furthermore, it is often hard for the victim to know who to trust or where to turn.
Those who consider leaving an abusive spouse or partner often fear end up penniless or losing their children. Over time their confidence slips away, leading a life without violence a distant memory.
How prevalent is violence against women?
It is estimated that some sort of violence is prevalent in approximately 20% of all U.S. marriages and a woman becomes the victim of an act of violence every 13 minutes in the United States.
In a study done in Washington, D.C., 16,000 people were asked to take a survey on abuse––8000 women and 8000 men. The goal of the study was to gather empirical data on the prevalence and incidence of rape, physical assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence.
The study found that physical assault was widespread amongst U.S. women, with 52% of women surveyed reporting that they had been the victim of physical assault in their lives––1.9% in the previous 12 months.
The study also found that women who experienced intimate partner violence were more likely to be injured during an assault and more likely to have been stalked.
In addition, the study found significant differences in the prevalence of rape, physical assault, stalking, and intimate partner violence between women of different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
The violence against women act of 1994
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, violent crime was at the forefront of national attention in the United States. Beginning in 1987, the homicide rate in the U.S. was increasing by 5% each year and the media was taking notice.
In 1991, the national murder rate peaked with 9.8 deaths for every 100,000 people. As these statistics gained notoriety, the large percentage of women murdered by a spouse or intimate partner could no longer be ignored.
By 1992, domestic violence was the leading cause of injury for women between the ages of 15 and 44––more than rape, muggings, and car accidents combined.
Activist groups all over the country called for action to be taken to protect women in their own homes. So, in 1990, then Senator Joe Biden began drafting a bill to address the violence against women and to provide service to victims.
Congress finally passed The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, after decades of growing unease over the rising violent crime rate and with a focus on women as the victims of violent crimes.
VAWA specifically addressed violence against women in the forms of:
- Domestic violence
- Intimate partner violence
- Sexual assault
- Dating violence
VAWA not only embodied the first federal law against physical abuse, it also included provisions on rape and abuse that focused on prevention as wells victim’s services. In addition, VAWA provided increased focus on access to services for communities of color, battered immigrants, and Native American communities.
In VAWA’s 2000, 2005, and 2013 reauthorizations, it was expanded to provide protections for gays and lesbians, sexual assault survivors, and victims of sex trafficking, as well as, to increase its focus on access to services for communities of color, battered immigrants, and Native American communities.
Today, VAWA applies equally to both men and women and through its many reauthorizations, resources and legal actions for the prevention of domestic abuse have improved dramatically.
Every year, more than $1.6 billion is set aside to provide grants for legal aid and transitional housing for victims of domestic violence, law enforcement training, assistance hotlines, and for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.
Contact an experienced family law attorney
If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic violence, rape, physical assault, or stalking, contact an experienced family law attorney for more information regarding the protections and services available to you under VAWA and how you can hold those who are accountable for their actions against women.