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The Violence Against Women Act is being considered for renewal on September 28. As it presently stands, it offers certain protections for survivors of domestic violence with regard to workplace and job opportunity issues. This article presents the analysis of the Act from 1999 as written by Esta Soler, Executive Director of Family Violence Prevention Fund.

Briefing Paper by Esta Soler
Family Violence Prevention Fund

Approved in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is now due for consideration in the U.S. Congress for renewal. The entire Congress will vote on whether the Act should be renewed on September 28. The renewed VAWA will offer strengthened provisions for protection and enforcement, funds for shelters and transitional housing, and funds for legal services. Since domestic violence was initially recognized in the mid-1970s, the rate of deaths due to domestic violence has dropped drastically. However, the support services are still scant and the prejudices are still high with regard to those who are the targets and the survivors. For your information, a discussion of the VAWA by Esta Soler, Executive Director of Family Violence Prevention Fund from the Briefing Paper she prepared for FVPF is presented for your consideration, according to their guidelines for reproduction. The Federal Government Responds: Violence Against Women Act 1999 Like the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that was signed into law in 1994, VAWA '99 is a comprehensive package that contains many provisions aimed at stopping violence against women, with several that address domestic violence in the workplace. VAWA '99, H.R. 357, in the House of Representatives, has 169 co-sponsors. Key workplace components in the House version include:
  • A federally funded national clearinghouse on domestic violence as it affects the workplace;
  • The Battered Women's Employment Protection Act: This bill would expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow unpaid time off to employees needing leave for domestic violence-related court appearances, counseling, relocation to a woman's shelter, and more. The bill also makes it possible for a woman to obtain unemployment benefits if she leaves her job due to domestic violence - for example, if she needs to leave the area or go into hiding;
  • The Victim's Employment Rights Act: This bill protects an employee from workplace discrimination based on the employee's status as a domestic violence, stalking or rape victim; The Workplace Violence Prevention Tax Credit, a bill that offers employers a tax credit for money spent on domestic violence prevention at work, including increased lighting or other security measures, education of employees and more; A grants program to non-profits and states to provide domestic violence training to individuals likely to come into contact with victims of domestic violence - for example, justice system professionals, individuals administering Federal and State benefits programs, campus personnel, religious professionals and health care professionals.
The Senate version of the bill, S. 51, referred to as the Violence Against Women Act II, or VAWA II, was introduced by Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) on January 19, 1999 and now has 43 cosponsors. While S. 51 includes numerous provisions to end violence against women, the primary workplace provision included in the bill is the national clearinghouse on domestic violence. In addition to S.51, Senators Paul Wellstone (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Charles Schumer (D-NY) joined forces to introduce the Battered Women's Economic Security and Safety Act on May 18, 1999. The Battered Women's Economic Security and Safety Act, or BWESSA, S. 1069, is a comprehensive package of legislative proposals designed to address the needs of victims of domestic violence in the areas of housing, insurance discrimination, access to legal advocacy, protections for immigrant women, and women participating in Social Security Act programs, and in the workplace. Combined, S. 51 and S. 1069 include the majority of the proposals in H.R. 357, the House version of VAWA '99.

See also:
DIVISION B--Violence Against Women Act of 2000
HR 3420 - Security and Financial Empowerment Act from the 108th Congress

Originally published September 24, 2000