20 Year Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act

On September 13, 1994, Congress passed a groundbreaking law called the Violence Against Women Act. Why was it such a game-changer? Because it finally put the full force of the federal government into efforts to stop domestic violence and help victims. Not only did it reshape our criminal justice system, and introduce training for judges and law enforcement, it provided the funds for a national network of shelters, services and supports.

In fact, we’re proud to say that domestic violence against adult women has declined 64 percent in the past 20 years since the law was passed.

Esta VAWA Throwback
“The Violence Against Women Act has transformed the criminal justice system, broken silences, shifted attitudes, and made women safer.”

-Esta Soler, Founder and President of Future Without Violence 


FUTURES, or The Family Violence Prevention Fund as it was called at the time, was there from the beginning. Throughout the 1980s, we worked with grassroots organizers all over the country to protect battered women and broken families. Working with a group of passionate advocates in the early 1990s, we insisted that it was time for Congress to change laws and provide funding for shelters, support services and revisions in the criminal justice system.

We’re grateful to then-Senator Joe Biden for nurturing and introducing the bill in the 1990s.  It’s also worth noting that President Bill Clinton, who signed the bill into law, was among the first public figures to expose the issue when he shared a personal story at the Democratic convention.

In the past 20 years, the law has become a catalyst for improving response to violence against women from our health care system, children’s programs, and social services agencies.  The Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized by Congress in 2000, again in December 2005  and again in 2013, after a long legislative battle throughout 2012–2013.