Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

Pass a Violence Against Women Act reauthorization bill that restores tribal jurisdiction

Congress created the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 with broad bi-partisan support. VAWA is an essential tool in combating gender-based crimes, including domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, and other forms of violence against women. VAWA funds shelters and crisis centers, supports a national hotline for victims, and trains law enforcement to better investigate violence against women and offer support to survivors.

VAWA is reauthorized every five years, giving opportunity to update and improve tools and resources for protecting lives, but reauthorization is not automatic. While VAWA did pass the House in the 116th Congress, it was not considered in the Senate before the end of the session. VAWA as last reauthorized in 2013 and was an important step forward in addressing legal barriers to safety and justice for Indigenous women, giving tribal courts the authority to exercise jurisdiction over all domestic violence offenders on tribal lands, making possible prosecuting offenders who previously faced no consequences for their crimes.

More must be done, especially to address our nation's crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women. VAWA reauthorization will include the important authority for tribal authorities to prosecute non-Indigenous perpetrators of sexual violence, child abuse, stalking, trafficking or assaults against law enforcement. Additionally, Alaska Native tribes were not included in the VAWA 2013 reauthorization.

  • More than 4 in 5 American Indian and Alaska Native women (84.3%) have experienced violence in their lifetime, which includes sexual violence, physical violence by an intimate partner, stalking, and psychological aggression by an intimate partner.
  • 96% of Indigenous women who are victims of sexual violence experienced violence at the hands of a non-Indigenous perpetrator. The U.S. House recently introduced and is expected to pass soon a bi-partisan VAWA reauthorization (H.R. 1620), and the Senate must too.

H.R. 1620 includes key provisions to protect Indigenous victims of sexual assault and keep Indigenous children safe from violence by expanding tribal jurisdiction over non-Indigenous perpetrators. The bill promotes tribal access to federal criminal databases, improves coordination and response rates across multiple jurisdictions, and includes protection for Alaska Native tribes.

H.R. 1620 also offers significant new protections for survivors in federal public, subsidized and assisted housing; supports victims and survivors who need assistance rebuilding financially; addresses the needs of underserved communities; and improves the healthcare response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

Significant ELCA social teaching supports these policy protections, including the social statement Faith, Sexism and Justice: A Call to Action, social message on “Gender-Based Violence,” and the 2016 churchwide assembly action “Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.”

Your voice is needed to support the strongest possible VAWA reauthorization. During the coronavirus pandemic, violence against women has risen in what the United Nations has dubbed “a shadow epidemic.” VAWA needs to be reauthorized.

The House passed VAWA on March 17th - a day after hundreds of Lutherans took action. Now it's the Senate's turn to act. Please CUSTOMIZE the text below to send a message to your lawmakers today.


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