What's Working and What Isn't
Four years after the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and well over two decades after the founding of the nation's first battered women's shelters, domestic violence continues to plague women and children in the United States. The VAWA hearings provided a national wake-up call about a shockingly high rate of battering in our society and a sadly inadequate response Congress documented that our police departments, prosecutors and courts, deeply infected with gender bias, often failed to respond to domestic violence as a crime or blamed the victim for the violence The VAWA began a major Federal commitment to improving the criminal justice system and services for battered women by providing Federal dollars and encouraging local partnerships among criminal justice systems and victim advocacy organizations.
At this juncture, we can report important progress, but tragic deficiencies remain. Communities around the country are experimenting with promising approaches and partnerships. More Americans than ever recognize that domestic violence is a serious and important problem in our society. Local, State, and Federal policymakers place the issue high on their agendas. However, despite this progress, shelters continue to turn away women that they cannot serve, and women are still murdered by intimate partners at a dramatically high rate Cutbacks in government support for low-income families are causing serious problems for battered women and their children. Gender bias is still a serious problem in too many State and local criminal and civil justice systems. Thus, a review of the latest developments on domestic violence finds both reasons for hope and causes for concern.
The Nature and Character of Violence Against Women
Any assessment of our response to domestic violence should begin with looking at how prevalent domestic violence remains. Women disproportionately experience intimate partner violence -- including physical and sexual abuse committed by current and former spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends. From spousal battering to acquaintance rape, violence against women and girls largely happens at the hands of someone they know, and usually someone with whom they have a relationship. For …