How VAWA Cuts Might Impact Your Campus

Posted on 11 April 2017 |

vawa cuts impactIn 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) into law the. The bill, drafted by then-Senator Joe Biden, was intended to help combat domestic and sexual violence by coordinating the efforts of state and local law enforcement alongside community-based organizations.

Beyond strengthening federal prosecutorial guidelines regarding stalking, the act established a number of grant programs intended to support victims as well as various non-governmental organizations, such as domestic violence shelters and campus initiatives.

Every five years, Congress reauthorizes the bill, typically expanding operations and coverage. For example, the most recent reauthorization in 2013, among other things required colleges to better track and report incidents of on-campus sexual assault.

The Current Controversy

At present, the Office on Violence Against Women, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice, oversees 25 grant programs authorized by the VAWA legislation. These grants support victim services programs with the hope of reducing incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Since its inception in 1994, the office has distributed more than $6 billion in grants. And in fiscal year 2017, the agency hopes to increase its grant spending by $28.5 million.

However, earlier this year, it was reported that the Trump administration is considering a national budget that considerably shrinks federal operations. In particular, the budget plan being considered would cut government spending by $10.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

These budget reductions would have significant impact on various offices and programs within the U.S. Departments of Transportation, Justice and State. And while the Office on Violence Against Women does not appear to be specifically named in this proposed budget, the agency and its proponents have reason to be concerned.

Of course, this does not represent the only challenge that VAWA has experienced. During the last round of Congressional reauthorization, the bill temporarily stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives as some members expressed concerns regarding the expanded operations proposed in the new bill and questioned whether or not the grant programs were truly effective.

How Should Your Campus React?

At this stage, all we currently have is speculation. The programs may be untouched by the new budget. Or they could be reformed and repackaged under the oversight of a newly-formed government office. Or they could be suspended. No one is sure.

Keep calm

The changes currently being reported on are unofficial discussions that do not bear any official mark of approval. The Trump administration has not yet formally released a budget and likely will not do so until later this month.

As it stands, the Office on Violence Against Women will continue to operate under a “partial” continuing resolution that maintains pro-rated funding levels (based on FY 2016) through April 28, 2017.

Contact Congress

If you or your school is concerned about the impact that these cuts could have on your campus -- or across the country as a whole -- remember that Presidential budgets are non-binding proposals. It is, in fact, the U.S. Congress that establishes the national budget, and it is under no obligation to enact the President's recommendations.

Contact your Senator or Representative to voice the opinion of your organization regarding these proposed cuts -- whether you are for them or against.

Keep providing services

Regardless of whether or not the new federal budget keeps or removes the existing grant programs, your campus can still offer students a safe, healthy environment in which to learn.

If your school relies on one of these grant programs, investigate alternate funding sources. Partner with outside organizations to bring resources onto your campus or to make these services more readily available off site.

Conclusion

Until the budget is finalized, nothing is guaranteed. But, no matter what happens to the funding of VAWA programs, your school will be right there—ready to take action to help your students stay safe.

If you would like learn about how we can work with your campus to fight sexual violence, request a demo of our Student Empower training courses.

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