Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Passes Congress, Heads to President’s Desk

Legislation Led by Senators Murkowski, Feinstein, Ernst, and Durbin To Address Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assaults & Stalking

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization Act of 2022, led by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), alongside U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), is heading to the President to be signed into law. This bipartisan legislation, which was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, reauthorizes VAWA through 2027, preserves advancements in previous reauthorizations, and strengthens and modernizes the almost 30-year-old law.

The VAWA reauthorization expands prevention efforts, supports and protects survivors, and holds perpetrators accountable for their violent actions. It provides for increased resources for law enforcement and our judicial systems, including in Native communities, while improving access to essential support services such as healthcare and safe housing for victims. 

“Our goal with VAWA is to ensure that women are safe and that every victim has a path to justice. I’m proud that our legislation—which we crafted on a strong bipartisan basis—will soon become federal law. Due to the work of countless advocates and survivors, I’m confident it will improve lives and increase safety for women across the country,” Senator Murkowski said. “In 2020, more than half of the women surveyed in Alaska had experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both in their lifetime. We know we have to address the ongoing crisis of violence—and now, the necessary resources are on the way to create safer communities for all women.”

Click here for a section-by-section of the bill.

Bill Provisions

  • Tribal Title: The VAWA reauthorization includes Senators Murkowski and Brian Schatz’s (D-HI) tribal title, which addresses the epidemic of violence in tribal communities across the country and in Alaska. The title further restores and extends tribal jurisdiction over offenders who commit domestic violence and related crimes, closing jurisdictional gaps left from VAWA 2013, while enhancing access to national crime databases for Tribal governments, improving existing grant programs, and permanently authorizing the Bureau of Prisons’ Tribal Law and Order program. The Tribal title further includes Murkowski’s Alaska tribal public safety empowerment pilot program, which is aimed at addressing the public safety crisis in Alaska Native villages. The Alaska pilot will allow a limited number of Tribes in Alaska, on a pilot basis, to exercise special tribal criminal jurisdiction on a concurrent basis with the State. It does not repeal Public Law 280 nor does it create any Indian Country in the state. 
  • Bree’s Law: Murkowski worked with Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) on a provision entitled Bree’s Law, named after Breanna (Bree) Moore, a 20-year-old Alaskan who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2014. It drives education initiatives to enable youth, parents, and advocates to recognize, prevent, and mitigate teen dating violence. This provision authorizes a grant program for the purpose of developing education and prevention programs relating to teen dating violence. It also creates an interagency working group to address teen dating violence composed of various federal agencies, parents of teen dating violence victims, and survivors of teen dating violence. The interagency working group will submit an annual report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailing best recommendations to reduce and prevent teen dating violence.
  • Ensuring Forensic Care for All Victims Act: Murkowski worked with Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) on the Ensuring Forensic Care for All Victims Act. This initiative will improve access to medical forensics for victims of interpersonal violence by authorizing demonstration grants to provide evidence-based and trauma-informed training for a broad group of providers, including emergency service providers, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physicians, and community health aides and practitioners. The legislation builds on the work of the Alaska Comprehensive Training Forensic Academy, a pilot program run through the University of Alaska Anchorage, which ensures there are healthcare providers in rural communities who are able to provide basic medical forensic services to all victims of violence.  
  • Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act: Murkowski, along with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), wrote the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act (SACSA) to help improve and expand healthcare services for survivors of sexual assault. SACSA directs HHS to establish a national training and continuing education pilot program to expand access to healthcare for survivors of sexual assault and develop federal standards around examinations and treatment. It establishes a pilot grant program to expand medical forensic exam training to new providers to increase access to sexual assault response. This provision also creates a national sexual assault taskforce to better understand sexual assault health care services and better address survivors’ needs.

In addition to Senators Murkowski, Feinstein, Ernst, and Durbin, original cosponsors of the VAWA reauthorization include Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Susan Collins (R-ME), Patty Murray (D-WA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Brian Schatz (D-HI), John Cornyn (R-TX), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) Ron Wyden (D-OR), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Richard Burr (R-NC).

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska