The Push for a Renewal of The Violence Against Women Act


Chip Somodevilla

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks in support of the Violence Against Women Act

Ryan Rose

The Violence Against Women Act was signed into law in 1994 by President Bill Clinton and has been renewed multiple times since then. The act was most recently renewed in 2013, but expired 5 years later in 2018 when Senate Republicans refused to hold a vote on its renewal after its passing in the House of Representatives. Now, in 2021, there has been a push from Democratic lawmakers to renew the act once again and restore its protection to domestic abuse victims and sexual assault survivors. 

While called the Violence Against Women Act, the act protects all American citizens regardless of gender and aims to assist those who have been victims to domestic abuse or sexual assault. The bill provides funding for women’s shelters that can hopefully be of use to women who need to escape domestic violence, but may have nowhere else to turn. It also sets up a hotline that can be accessed by those who need immediate assistance or guidance relating to these types of situations. The act also makes it so that partners who have been convicted of stalking or assaulting a significant other or who have had a restraining order issued to them for the protection of a girlfriend or ex-lover would be barred from owning firearms.

Supporters of the act were outraged when the Senate allowed the act to expire in 2018 and hoped that it would soon be reenacted in the future. When reported cases of domestic violence and abuse increased during the 2020 quarantine, the need for the act’s reprisal grew even more. In March of 2021, the House of Representatives acted and in a bipartisan effort voted in support of renewing the act. While the notion to do so was technically bipartisan, it still saw a large number of Republicans vote against the legislation. In total, 29 House Republicans voted in favor of the Violence Against Women Act and 172 voted against it. Many supporters believe it’s because of the removal of firearms to those who commit violence against women that so many Republicans were against the bill. Other supporters say that it is the protection of transgender women that turned so many conservative members of Congress away. Debbie Lesko, a Republican representative from Arizona, has stated the fact that this bill would allow “men” to house with vulnerable women in shelters was a promotion of “leftist gender ideology” that she could not support. President Joe Biden condemned this overwhelming sense of partisanship stating that “This should not be a Democratic or Republican issue – it’s a matter of justice and compassion. I am grateful to see the House of Representatives champion ending gender-based violence, and I urge Congress to follow past precedent and bring a strong bipartisan coalition together for swift passage of VAWA.”

Currently, the bill waits to be voted on by the Democratic led Senate. If the Violence Against Women Act passes there, it will then be sent to the desk of President Joe Biden who already has expressed his intent to sign the bill into law.